Floral and mating system divergence in secondary sympatry: Testing an alternative hypothesis to reinforcement in Clarkia

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Background and AimsReproductive character displacement (RCD) is often an important signature of reinforcement when partially cross-compatible taxa meet in secondary sympatry. In this study, floral evolution is examined during the Holocene range expansion of Clarkia xantiana subsp. parviflora from eastern Pleistocene refugia to a western zone of sympatry with its sister taxon, subsp. xantiana. Floral divergence between the two taxa is greater in sympatry than allopatry. The goal was to test an alternative hypothesis to reinforcement - that floral divergence of sympatric genotypes is simply a by-product of adaptation to pollination environments that differ between the allopatric and sympatric portions of the subspecies' range.MethodsFloral trait data from two common garden studies were used to examine floral divergence between sympatric and allopatric regions and among phylogeographically defined lineages. In natural populations of C. x. parviflora, the magnitude of pollen limitation and reproductive assurance were quantified across its west-to-east range. Potted sympatric and allopatric genotypes were also reciprocally translocated between geographical regions to distinguish between the effects of floral phenotype versus contrasting pollinator environments on reproductive ecology.Key ResultsSympatric populations are considerably smaller flowered with reduced herkogamy. Pollen limitation and the reproductive assurance value of selfing are greater in sympatric than in allopatric populations. Most significantly, reciprocal translocation experiments showed these differences in reproductive ecology cannot be attributed to contrasting pollinator environments between the sympatric and allopatric regions, but instead reflect the effects of flower size on pollinator attraction.ConclusionsFloral evolution occurred during the westward range expansion of parviflora, particularly in the zone of sympatry with xantiana. No evidence was found that strongly reduced flower size in sympatric parviflora (and RCD between parviflora and xantiana) is due to adaptation to limited pollinator availability. Rather, floral divergence appears to have been driven by other factors, such as interactions with congenerics in secondary sympatry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-235
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Justin Iverson, Jason Kopp and James Pettengill for assistance with field and greenhouse experiments. Funding was provided by grants from the National Science Foundation (DEB-1025004) and the University of Minnesota to D.A.M.


  • Breeding system evolution
  • phylogeography
  • plant-pollinator interactions
  • pollen limitation
  • pollination
  • reproductive assurance
  • reproductive character displacement
  • secondary contact
  • speciation


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