Live fast/die young or live slow/die old?

Adaptive diversification of growth allometry in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana

Are there biological constants unifying phenotypic diversity across scales? Metabolic scaling theory (MST) predicts mathematical regularity and constancy in the allometric scaling of growth rate with body size across species. Here we show that adaptation to climate in Arabidopsis thaliana is associated with local strains that substantially deviate from the values predicted by MST. This deviation can be linked to increased stress tolerance at the expense of seed production, and it occurs through selection on genes that are involved in the abiotic stress response and are geographically correlated with climatic conditions. This highlights the evolutionary role of allometric diversification and helps establish the physiological bases of plant adaptation to contrasting environments.