Inflorescence characteristics as function-valued traits: Analysis of heritability and selection on architectural effects

Mason W. Kulbaba, Ilona C. Clocher, Lawrence D. Harder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Production of multiple flowers in inflorescences allows the reproductive phenotypes of individual plants to include systematic among-flower variation, which could be adaptive. Systematic trait variation within inflorescences could arise from resource competition among flowers, or be a developmentally determined feature of flower position, regardless of resource dynamics. The latter, architectural effect typically manifests as continuous floral variation within inflorescences. For architectural effects to be adaptive, floral trait variation among individuals must covary with reproductive performance and be heritable. However, heritability and phenotypic selection on gradients of variation cannot be estimated readily with traditional statistical approaches. Instead, we advocate and illustrate the application of two functional data analysis techniques with observations of Delphinium glaucum (Ranunculaceae). To demonstrate the parameters-as-data approach we quantify heritability of variation in anthesis rate, as represented by the regression coefficient relating daily anthesis rate to inflorescence age. SNP-based estimates detected significant heritability (h2 = 0.245) for declining anthesis rate within inflorescences. Functional regression was used to assess phenotypic selection on anthesis rate and a floral trait (lower sepal length). The approach used spline curves that characterize within-inflorescence variation as functional predictors of a plant's fruit set. Selection on anthesis rate varied with inflorescence age and the duration of an individual's anthesis period. Lower sepal length experienced positive selection for basal and distal flowers, but negative selection for central flowers. These results illustrate the utility and power of functional-data analyses for studying architectural effects and specifically demonstrate that these effects are subject to natural selection and hence adaptive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-565
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Systematics and Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Ryan Taylor and Colby Regel for field and laboratory assistance, and two anonymous reviewers whose suggestions improved the quality of this manuscript. This research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (RGPIN/107375-2012) and a URGC Seed Grant from University of Calgary (LDH). We have no conflicts of interest to declare with this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences


  • architectural effects
  • functional data analysis
  • heritability
  • inflorescence display
  • selection


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