Pollinators exert natural selection on flower size and floral display in Penstemon digitalis


Author for correspondence:
Amy L. Parachnowitsch
Tel: +1 607 339 3153
Email: alp43@cornell.edu


  • A major gap in our understanding of floral evolution, especially micro-evolutionary processes, is the role of pollinators in generating patterns of natural selection on floral traits. Here we explicitly tested the role of pollinators in selecting floral traits in a herbaceous perennial, Penstemon digitalis.
  • We manipulated the effect of pollinators on fitness through hand pollinations and compared phenotypic selection in open- and hand-pollinated plants.
  • Despite the lack of pollen limitation in our population, pollinators mediated selection on floral size and floral display. Hand pollinations removed directional selection for larger flowers and stabilizing selection on flower number, suggesting that pollinators were the agents of selection on both of these traits.
  • We reviewed studies that measured natural selection on floral traits by biotic agents and generally found stronger signatures of selection imposed by pollinators than by herbivores and co-flowering plant species.