Do flowers wave to attract pollinators? A case study with Silene maritima


John Warren, Institute of Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Llanbadarn Fawr, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3AL, UK.
Tel.: +44 1970 621637; fax: +44 1970 611264;


To answer the question whether flowers wave to attract pollinators, we determine: (1) the heritability of floral mobility; (2) whether wavy flowers attract more insects; (3) does the duration of pollination affect seed set; and (4) the relationship between seed set and floral mobility. The pollination ecology of Silene maritima was investigated. Flowers on stalks of different waviness were used to investigate the effect of floral movement on pollinator visits. There is heritable variation in both direct and indirect estimates of floral mobility. The highest insect total visitation times were associated with medium length thin stalks that were visited more frequently and by more insect species. Although mean individual visit durations were less than those of less mobile flowers, this was compensated for by increased visits. Observations of controlled pollinations show that when the visit times are low, so is seed set and therefore low and high mobility flowers might suffer from reduced fitness. Combining these observations provides a mechanism that could be driving stabilizing selection for flower stalk traits, with a trade-off applying between waving to attract pollinators and not being too mobile as to prevent effective pollination. Further evidence for stabilizing selection is provided by the relationship observed in the field between seed set and floral mobility where the highest levels of fitness was associated with intermediate levels of floral waving.