Responses to Soils and a Test for Preadaptation to Serpentine in Phacelia dubia (Hydrophyllaceae)

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Tests for adaptation to three different soils inhabited by subspecific taxa within Phacelia dubia and for preadaptation to a serpentine soil were conducted to examine the plausibility of an endemic-to-endemic evolutionary pathway. Each taxon performed optimally on its home soil, demonstrating edaphic specialization. None survived on the serpentine. Hydroponic assays for tolerance to two serpentine factors, elevated magnesium: calcium and elevated nickel, were conducted on population samples and maternal half sib families. Performance was estimated by root length and rosette diameter while leaf dissection served as an indicator of developmental maturity. Both nickel and magnesium: calcium of typical serpentine inhibited all three taxa. However, the granite outcrop endemic var. georgiana tolerated higher magnesium: calcium than other taxa, its tolerance exceeded that found on its home soil, and there was developmental variation among sibships. The tolerance uncovered in the endemic var. georgiana suggests that a specialized endemic taxon may encompass variation that could lead to preadaptation to a novel habitat and therefore serve as the raw material for speciation rather than represent an evolutionary dead end.