Modularity and evolution of flower shape

Dieter Reich, Andreas Berger, Maria von Balthazar, Marion Chartier, Mahboubeh Sherafati, Jürg Schönenberger, Sara Manafzadeh, Yannick M Staedler

Flowers have been hypothesized to contain either modules of attraction and reproduction, functional modules (pollination-effecting parts) or developmental modules (organ-specific). Do pollination specialization and syndromes influence floral modularity? In order to test these hypotheses and answer this question, we focused on the genus Erica: we gathered 3D data from flowers of 19 species with diverse syndromes via computed tomography, and for the first time tested the above-mentioned hypotheses via 3D geometric morphometrics. To provide an evolutionary framework for our results, we tested the evolutionary mode of floral shape, size and integration under the syndromes regime, and - for the first time - reconstructed the high-dimensional floral shape of their most recent common ancestor. We demonstrate that the modularity of the 3D shape of generalist flowers depends on development and that of specialists is linked to function: modules of pollen deposition and receipt in bird syndrome, and access-restriction to the floral reward in long-proboscid fly syndrome. Only size and shape principal component 1 showed multiple-optima selection, suggesting that they were co-opted during evolution to adapt flowers to novel pollinators. Whole floral shape followed an Ornstein-Uhlenbeck (selection-driven) evolutionary model, and differentiated relatively late. Flower shape modularity thus crucially depends on pollinator specialization and syndrome.

Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
External organisation(s)
Tarbiat Modares University, Universität Zürich (UZH)
New Phytologist
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106008 Botany, 106012 Evolutionary research
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