Natural selection maintains species despite frequent hybridization in the desert shrub Encelia


Understanding how floral traits affect reproduction is key for understanding genetic diversity, speciation, and trait evolution in the face of global changes and pollinator decline. However, there has not yet been a unified framework to characterize the major trade-offs and axes of floral trait variation. Here, we propose the development of a floral economics spectrum (FES) that incorporates the multiple pathways by which floral traits can be shaped by multiple agents of selection acting on multiple flower functions. For example, while pollinator-mediated selection has been considered the primary factor affecting flower evolution, selection by nonpol- linator agents can reinforce or oppose pollinator selection, and, therefore, affect floral trait variation. In addition to pollinators, the FES should consider nonpollinator biotic agents and floral physio- logical costs, broadening the drivers of floral traits beyond pollina- tors. We discuss how coordinated evolution and trade-offs among floral traits and between floral and vegetative traits may influence the distribution of floral traits across biomes and lineages, thereby influencing organismal evolution and community assembly.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences