Rapid evolution of a floral trait following acquisition of novel pollinators

Mackin, Christopher R, Peña, Julián F, Blanco, Mario A, Balfour, Nicholas J, Castellanos, Maria Clara and Unset (2021) Rapid evolution of a floral trait following acquisition of novel pollinators. Journal of Ecology. pp. 1-13. ISSN 0022-0477

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Changes in the pollinator assemblage visiting a plant can have consequences for reproductive success and floral evolution. We studied a recent plant trans‐continental range expansion to test whether the acquisition of new pollinator functional groups can lead to rapid adaptive evolution of flowers.
In Digitalis purpurea, we compared flower visitors, floral traits and natural selection between native European populations and those in two Neotropical regions, naturalised after independent introductions. Bumblebees are the main pollinators in native populations while both bumblebees and hummingbirds are important visitors in the new range. We confirmed that the birds are effective pollinators and deposit more pollen grains on stigmas than bumblebees.
We found convergent changes in the two new regions towards larger proximal corolla tubes, a floral trait that restricts access to nectar to visitors with long mouthparts. There was a strong positive linear selection for this trait in the introduced populations, particularly on the length of the proximal corolla tube, consistent with the addition of hummingbirds as pollinators.
Synthesis. The addition of new pollinators is likely to happen often as humans influence the ranges of plants and pollinators but it is also a common feature in the long‐term evolution of the angiosperms. We show how novel selection followed by very rapid evolutionary change can be an important force behind the extraordinary diversity of flowers

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0301 Biology > QH0359 Evolution
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0301 Biology > QH0540 Ecology
Q Science > QK Botany > QK0900 Plant ecology
Q Science > QK Botany > QK0900 Plant ecology > QK0926 Reproductive interrelation. Pollination
Depositing User: MariaClara Castellanos
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2021 08:34
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2021 18:07
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/98400

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