An ecotype is a variety in which the phenotypic variations are insufficiently few or too small to qualify as a subspecies. These various variations can coexist in the same geographic area in ecologically varied environments such as meadows, forests, swamps, and dunes.
Characteristics of Ecotypes
- Despite having different genotypes, ecotypes of a species are always interfertile.
- When grown in a natural environment, they maintain their original characteristics.
- Ecotypes are fixed genetically.
- Based on morphological and physiological traits, a species with a wide ecological amplitude can be divided into various habitat forms or ecotypes.
- They can be found in various habitats.
- Ecotypes are distinct organisms with observable distinctions that set one ecotype apart from another.
- The differences are the result of natural selection on populations with local adaptations rather than a plastic response to environmental change.
Types of Ecotypes
According to varying environmental conditions, ecotypes may be of following types:
Climate-related ecotypes are those that are created as a result of different climatic conditions such as light, temperature, water, and wind. The climatic ecotypes in Leontodon autumnalis were documented by Turesson in 1930.
Edaphic ecotypes are those that are created as a result of variations in edaphic or soil variables, such as soil moisture, an abundance or lack of nutrients, a change in soil pH, etc. Both Lindenbergia polyantha and Euphorbia thymifolia were researched by Misra and Rao (1948) and Ramkrishnan (1961), who identified numerous edaphic ecotypes in each plant.
Climate-edaphic ecotypes are those that are the result of the interaction between climatic and edaphic elements. Ecotypes of Cenchrus ciliaris that are climatic-edaphic have been described by Panday and Jayant (1970).
Altitudinal and latitudinal ecotypes:
Changes in altitude and latitude lead to the emergence of these ecotypes. Numerous gymnosperms, including Cassia tora, Pinus, and Anagallis arvensis, also exhibit these ecotypes.
These ecotypes are created as a result of physiological variations in photoperiod, water absorption, nutrient intake, etc. For instance, in Boutelona curtipendula, there are two photoperiodic ecotypes—short days and long days—that are morphologically similar.