Floral Evolution: Attractiveness to Pollinators Increases Male Fitness

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Science  27 Jun 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4758, pp. 1625-1627
DOI: 10.1126/science.232.4758.1625


Because availability of resources often limits seed or fruit set, increased visits by pollinators may not always lead to increases in maternal reproduction. This observation has led evolutionary biologists to hypothesize that a plant's ability to attract pollinators may have its primary impact on male fitness achieved through the fertlization of ovules. This interpretation of angiosperm reproductive ecology is supported by field experiments. Pollinating insects strongly discriminated between two Mendelian petal-color morphs in Raphanus raphanistrum, a widespread, self-incompatible crucifer. In experimental populations composed of petal-color homozygotes. color discrimination by naturally occurring pollinators had no statistically significant effect on relative maternal function (fruit and seed production) in the two morphs. In contrast, yellow-flowered individuals were far more successful as fathers (pollen donors) than were the less visited whites. These results suggest that the evolution of floral signals such as petal color may be driven primarily by selection on male function.