Leaf morphophysiology of a Neotropical mistletoe is shaped by seasonal patterns of host leaf phenology

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Scalon, Marina Corrêa
Rossatto, Davi Rodrigo [UNESP]
Domingos, Fabricius Maia Chaves Bicalho
Franco, Augusto Cesar
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Several mistletoe species are able to grow and reproduce on both deciduous and evergreen hosts, suggesting a degree of plasticity in their ability to cope with differences in intrinsic host functions. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of host phenology on mistletoe water relations and leaf gas exchange. Mistletoe Passovia ovata parasitizing evergreen (Miconia albicans) hosts and P. ovata parasitizing deciduous (Byrsonima verbascifolia) hosts were sampled in a Neotropical savanna. Photosynthetic parameters, diurnal cycles of stomatal conductance, pre-dawn and midday leaf water potential, and stomatal anatomical traits were measured during the peak of the dry and wet seasons, respectively. P. ovata showed distinct water-use strategies that were dependent on host phenology. For P. ovata parasitizing the deciduous host, water use efficiency (WUE; ratio of photosynthetic rate to transpirational water loss) was 2-fold lower in the dry season than in the wet season; in contrast, WUE was maintained at the same level during the wet and dry seasons in P. ovata parasitizing the evergreen host. Generally, mistletoe and host diurnal cycles of stomatal conductance were linked, although there were clear differences in leaf water potential, with mistletoe showing anisohydric behaviour and the host showing isohydric behaviour. Compared to mistletoes attached to evergreen hosts, those parasitizing deciduous hosts had a 1.4-fold lower stomatal density and 1.2-fold wider stomata on both leaf surfaces, suggesting that the latter suffered less intense drought stress. This is the first study to show morphophysiological differences in the same mistletoe species parasitizing hosts of different phenological groups. Our results provide evidence that phenotypical plasticity (anatomical and physiological) might be essential to favour the use of a greater range of hosts.
Cerrado, Hemiparasite, Loranthaceae, Stomatal traits, Water use
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Oecologia, v. 180, n. 4, p. 1103-1112, 2016.