Pollinator-Mediated Selection on Flower Color Allele Drives Reinforcement

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Science  02 Feb 2012:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1215198


Reinforcement is the process by which reduced hybrid fitness generates selection favoring the evolution of stronger prezygotic reproductive barriers between emerging species. Using common-garden field experiments, we quantified the strength of reinforcing selection in nature by demonstrating strong selection favoring an allele conferring increased pigment intensity in the plant Phlox drummondii in areas of sympatry with the closely related species P. cuspidata. Incomplete hybrid sterility between the two species generates selection for traits that decrease interspecies hybridization. By contrast, selection on this locus is undetectable in the absence of P. cuspidata. We demonstrate that reinforcing selection is generated by nonrandom pollinator movement, in which pollinators move less frequently between intensely pigmented P. drummondii and P. cuspidata than between lightly pigmented P. drummondii and P. cuspidata.