Selection on floral characters in natural Spanish populations of Silene latifolia


  • Present address: Thomas R. Meagher, Division of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, School of Biology, Sir Harold Mitchell Building, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TH, UK. e-mail:

Jessica Wilcox Wright, Center for Population Biology, 2320 Storer Hall, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.
Tel.: +1 530 752 9768; fax: +1 530 752 1449;


In insect-pollinated plants, floral characters are expected to play an important role in paternal and maternal reproductive success. Bateman's principle states that male reproductive success increases with more mating opportunities, while female reproductive success is limited by the amount of resources available to produce progeny, thus there should be greater selection on male floral characters than on female. In the case of the dioecious plant Silene latifolia, floral characters are likely to be influenced by its association within its native European range with moths of the genus Hadena, which serve as both pollinators and seed predators. The present study addresses relationships between male and female reproductive success, spatial location and floral characters (corolla, calyx and claw) over a 2-year period in two Spanish populations of S. latifolia in the presence of Hadena moths. A maximum likelihood paternity analysis using genetic variation at six allozyme markers showed heterogeneity in male reproductive success. There was much less variation in female reproductive success. When this analysis was extended to include interplant distance as a causal factor underlying variation in male success, we found that successful pollination tended to be limited to nearby females, in accordance with exponential decay of pollen dispersal with increasing distance. When the paternity analysis included floral characters as a causal factor underlying variation in male success, our data showed little evidence for directional selection, but there was stabilizing selection in one of the two years for calyx diameter. Selection on female characters varied widely between sites and years, in most of the site/year combinations there was little selection on female floral characters; however, in one site/year there was evidence for selection on all three floral characters. We conclude that pollinators visit flowers that are close together, and that while floral characters are important for the attraction of pollinators, larger flowers do not necessarily attract more pollinators at all sites and that variation among sites and years makes difficult any conclusions about the long-term importance of the predictions suggested by Bateman's principle.