Selection of trait combinations through bee and fly visitation to flowers of Polemonium foliosissimum

D. R. Campbell, M. Forster, M. Bischoff

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Pollinators are known to exert natural selection on floral traits, but the extent to which combinations of floral traits are subject to correlational selection (nonadditive effects of two traits on fitness) is not well understood. Over two years, we used phenotypic manipulations of plant traits to test for effects of flower colour, flower shape and their interaction on rates of pollinator visitation to Polemonium foliosissimum. We also tested for correlational selection based on weighting visitation by the amount of conspecific pollen delivered per visit by each category of insect visitor. Although bumblebees were the presumed pollinators, solitary bees and flies contributed substantially (42%) to pollination. In manipulations of one trait at a time, insects visited flowers presenting the natural colour and shape over flowers manipulated to present artificial mutants with either paler colour or a more open or more tubular flower. When both colour and shape were manipulated in combination, selection on both traits arose, with bumblebees responding mainly to colour and flies responding mainly to shape. Despite selection on both floral traits, in a year with many bumblebees, we saw no evidence for correlational selection of these traits. In a year when flies predominated, fly visitation showed a pattern of correlational selection, but not favouring the natural phenotype, and correlational selection was still not detected for expected pollen receipt. These results show that flower colour and shape are subject to pollinator-mediated selection and that correlational selection can be generated based on pollinator visitation alone, but provide no evidence for correlational selection specifically for the current phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-336
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2014


  • Correlational selection
  • Flower colour
  • Flower shape
  • Phenotypic manipulation
  • Polemonium
  • Pollinator effectiveness
  • Pollinator visitation
  • Temporal variation in selection


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