Royal Society Publishing

Copper Tolerance in Some Californian Populations of the Monkey Flower, Mimulus guttatus

W. R. Allen, P. M. Sheppard


A preliminary investigation had been made into the evolution of copper tolerance in some Californian populations of Mimulus guttatus growing on abandoned copper mines. It has been shown that populations growing on soil with normally toxic levels of copper were tolerant to this heavy metal. There was also some indication of an increase in tolerance to zinc, lead and nickel in the copper tolerant populations, even when the soil was not particularly rich in these other metals. With one exception, populations on non-contaminated soils were non-tolerant as judged by root growth in aqueous solutions or soil containing copper. Furthermore, there was a marked difference in germination and seedling establishment on copper soil between stocks originating from mine and from non-mine environments. The superiority of the mine populations under such circumstances was less marked when established plants were potted up in mine soil. By testing the F$_{1}$ progeny of crosses involving tolerant and non-tolerant parents it was found that copper tolerance is dominant in effect at low copper concentrations, intermediate at intermediate concentrations, and recessive in effect at high copper concentrations. When the plants had been grown on normal soil there appeared to be a requirement for copper at low concentrations among the offspring of tolerant parents. It is suggested that this may result from the mechanism of tolerance by complexing the copper and thus making it unavailable to the plant. The genetic control of zinc and lead tolerance is not clear, but there is evidence that zinc tolerance may be dominant at concentrations of zinc in solution of 15 parts/10$^{6}$.

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