Wild cherry (Prunus avium (L.) L.) leaf shape and size variations in natural populations at different elevations
Leaf shape variations and developmental instability were examined for the first time in natural populations of Prunus avium (L.) L. in the central Balkan region (Bosnia and Herzegovina) at different elevational points, from 230 to 1177 m. above sea level. Geometric morphometric tools were applied to assess the variability of leaf shapes and sizes, while a fluctuating asymmetry leaf index was used as a measure of leaf developmental instability. According to the results of canonical variate analysis for the symmetric component of shape variation and hierarchical analysis of variance for centroid size, the studied populations could be partially differentiated into three groups. The co-variation between leaf form (shape and size) and climate variables was significant, estimated by two-block partial least square analysis. Climate variables (the sum of precipitation in May and the De Martonne aridity index) mostly influenced leaf shape and size. A population situated at the highest elevation had the highest value for fluctuating asymmetry leaf index, which was an indication of developmental instability. High natural variability and interpopulation differences were observed for all studied leaf traits (leaf shape, centroid size, fluctuating asymmetry leaf index, leaf area, leaf length and width, petiole length). For well-known traditional morphometric measures (leaf area, leaf length, leaf width, and petiole length) in accordance with previous studies, intrapopulation variability was greater than interpopulation variability. For centroid size and the fluctuating asymmetry leaf index (measures used in geometric morphometrics) variability was higher among populations than within them. This indicates that geometric morphometrics could give new insights into infra-specific variability.
Developmental instability · Fluctuating asymmetry · Geometric morphometrics · Leaf morphology · Prunus avium (L.) L.