Genetic variability and plasticity of plant allometry

François Vasseur, Cyrille Violle, Brian J. Enquist, Denis Vile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The metabolic scaling theory (MST) predicts quasi-universal trait–size relationships in plants, characterised by a unique allometric exponent within and across large taxonomic scales. However, recent studies have identified variability in allometric relationships, without a clear understanding of the modulating role played by genetic variation and environment. Here, we investigated (1) the allometric relationships for two central traits of MST, namely total leaf area and plant growth rate, in the model species Arabidopsis thaliana, (2) the variability of plant allometries between genotypes and (3) the plastic responses of plant allometries under water deficit, high temperature and their interaction. Using a population of 120 genotypes, we found that intraspecific allometries adhered on average with MST predictions. However, a broad variability but a moderate plasticity in the allometric exponents was observed across genotypes and environments. Allometric exponents were impacted significantly, yet weakly, by water deficit, but not by high temperature. Moreover, genotypes that deviated from MST predictions exhibited more plasticity in trait–size relationships than genotypes that followed MST predictions. Our study suggests that plant allometry is genetically variable and might be related to different adaptive strategies to cope with stressing conditions. Thus, our results highlights the need of assessing trait–size relationships within species to understand the mechanisms of plant adaptation to contrasted environments. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1095-1105
Number of pages11
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • growth rate
  • high temperature
  • intraspecific trait variability
  • metabolic scaling theory
  • plasticity
  • water stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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