Individual and Population Shifts in Flower Color by Scarlet Gilia: A Mechanism for Pollinator Tracking

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Science  18 Jan 1985:
Vol. 227, Issue 4684, pp. 315-317
DOI: 10.1126/science.227.4684.315


Individual plants and populations of scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) shift from darker to lighter corolla colors during the flowering season. Shifts to lighter color coincide with emigration of hummingbirds from the system. In the absence of hummingbirds, lighter colors attract the remaining pollinator, a hawkmoth. Comparison of plants that shift to lighter colors with those that fail to shift shows that shifting is adaptive in that it enhances reproductive success because of the preference of hawkmoths for lighter colored flowers. Color shifting therefore provides a mechanism for plants to track changing pollinator abundances.

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