Seed dormancy is a complex life history trait that determines the timing of germination and is crucial for local adaptation. Genetic studies of dormancy are challenging, because the trait is highly plastic and strongly influenced by the maternal environment. Using a combination of statistical and experimental approaches, we show that multiple alleles at the previously identified dormancy locus DELAY OF GERMINATION1 jointly explain as much as 57% of the variation observed in Swedish Arabidopsis thaliana, but give rise to spurious associations that seriously mislead genome-wide association studies unless modeled correctly. Field experiments confirm that the major alleles affect germination as well as survival under natural conditions, and demonstrate that locally adaptive traits can sometimes be dissected genetically.
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