Modular genetic architecture of floral morphology in Nicotiana: quantitative genetic and comparative phenotypic approaches to floral integration


Erin K. Bissell, CB 334, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0334, USA.
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Animal-pollinated flowers are complex structures that may require a precise configuration of floral organs for proper function. As such, they represent an excellent system with which we can examine the role of phenotypic integration and modularity in morphological evolution. We use complementary quantitative genetic and comparative phenotypic approaches to examine correlations among floral characters in Nicotiana alata, N. forgetiana and their artificial fourth-generation hybrids. Flowers of both species share basic patterns of genetic and phenotypic correlations characterized by at least two integrated character suites that are relatively independent of each other and are not disrupted by four generations of recombination in hybrids. We conclude that these integrated character suites represent phenotypic modules that are the product of a modular genetic architecture. Intrafloral modularity may have been critical for rapid specialization of these species to different pollinators.