Is physiological performance a good predictor for fitness? Insights from an invasive plant species.
Is physiological performance a suitable proxy of fitness in plants? Although, several studies have been conducted to measure some fitness-related traits and physiological performance, direct assessments are seldom found in the literature. Here, we assessed the physiology-fitness relationship using second-generation individuals of the invasive plant species Taraxacum officinale from 17 localities distributed in five continents. Specifically, we tested if (i) the maximum quantum yield is a good predictor for seed-output (ii) whether this physiology-fitness relationship can be modified by environmental heterogeneity, and (iii) if this relationship has an adaptive consequence for T. officinale individuals from different localities. Overall, we found a significant positive relationship between the maximum quantum yield and fitness for all localities evaluated, but this relationship decreased in T. officinale individuals from localities with greater environmental heterogeneity. Finally, we found that those individuals from localities where environmental conditions are highly seasonal performed better under heterogeneous environmental conditions. Contrarily, under homogeneous controlled conditions, those individuals from localities with low environmental seasonality performed much better. In conclusion, our results suggest that the maximum quantum yield seem to be good predictors for plant fitness. We suggest that rapid measurements, such as those obtained from the maximum quantum yield, could provide a straightforward proxy of individual's fitness in changing environments.