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Keywords:

  • Acer;
  • adaptive evolution;
  • correlated evolution;
  • inflorescence size;
  • leaf size;
  • mating competition

Summary

  • • 
    The evolution of inflorescence size, a key trait in reproductive success, was studied in the genus Acer under a perspective of adaptive evolution. Breeding systems, hypothesized to indicate different levels of mating competition, were considered as the selective scenarios defining different optima of inflorescence size. Larger inflorescences, which increase male fitness by generating larger floral displays, were hypothesized to be selected under scenarios with higher competition with unisexuals. An identical approach was used to test if the same selective regimes could be driving the evolution of leaf size, a vegetative trait that was found to be correlated with inflorescence size.
  • • 
    A Brownian motion model of inflorescence/leaf-size evolution (which cannot distinguish between changes caused by pure drift processes and changes caused by natural selection in rapidly and randomly changing environments) was compared with several adaptive Ornstein–Uhlenbeck (OU) models, which can quantify the effects of both stochasticity and natural selection.
  • • 
    The best-fitting model for inflorescence/leaf-size evolution was an OU model with three optima that increased with the level of mating competition.
  • • 
    Both traits evolved under the same selective regimes and in the same direction, confirming a pattern of correlated evolution. These results show that a selective regime hypothetically related to the evolution of a reproductive trait can also explain the evolution of a vegetative trait.