Haploid females in the isomorphic biphasic life-cycle of Gracilaria chilensis excel in survival.BMC Evol Biol. 2018 11 20; 18(1):174.BE
Conditional differentiation is one of the most fundamental drivers of biodiversity. Competitive entities (usually species) differ in environmental or ecological niche enabling them to co-exist. Conditional differentiation of haploid and diploid generations is considered to be a requirement for the evolutionary stability of isomorphic biphasic life-cycles and the cause for the natural occurrence of both phases at uneven abundances. Theoretically, stage dependent survival rates are the most efficient way to explain conditional differentiation.
We tested for conditional differentiation in survival rates among life stages (haploid males, haploid females, and diploids) of Gracilaria chilensis, an intertidal red alga occurring along the Chilean shores. Therefore, the fate of individuals was followed periodically for 3 years in five intertidal pools and, for the first time in isomorphic red algae, a composite model of the instantaneous survival rates was applied. The results showed the survival dependency on density (both competition and Allee effects), fertility, age, size, season and location, as well as the differentiation among stages for the survival dependencies of these factors. The young haploid females survived more than the young of the other stages under Allee effects during the environmentally stressful season at the more exposed locations, and under self-thinning during the active growth season. Furthermore, fertile haploid females had a higher survival than fertile haploid males or fertile diploids.
Here, we show a survival advantage of haploids over diploids. The haploid females probably optimize their resource management targeting structural and physiological adaptations that significantly enhance survival under harsher conditions. In a companion paper we demonstrate a fertility advantage of diploids over haploids. Together, the survival and fertility differentiation support the evolution and prevalence of biphasic life-cycles.