Reproductive assurance varies with flower size in Collinsia parviflora (Scrophulariaceae)

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Authors: Elle, E; Carney, R
Year: 2003
Journal: American Journal of Botany 90: 888-896   Article Link (DOI)
Title: Reproductive assurance varies with flower size in Collinsia parviflora (Scrophulariaceae)
Abstract: A central question in plant evolutionary ecology is how mixed mating systems are maintained in the face of selection against self-pollination. Recently, attention has focused on the potential reproductive assurance (RA) benefit of selling: the ability to produce seeds via autonomous selfing when the potential for outcrossing is reduced or absent. To date, there is little experimental support for this benefit under natural pollination conditions. In addition, the RA hypothesis has not been tested experimentally in a species displaying morphological variation for traits expected to influence the mating system, such as flower size, which affects both attractiveness to pollinators and ability to self autonomously. Here, we document significant among-population variation in flower size in Collinsia parviflora and show that pollinators preferred large flowers over small flowers in experimental arrays. The pollinator community varied among three study sites, and two small-flowered populations had lower pollinator visitation rates than one large-flowered population. We compared seed production between intact flowers (can self) and experimentally emasculated flowers (require a pollinator) on large- and small-flowered plants. As predicted by the RA hypothesis, small-flowered plants show a greater RA benefit of selling than large-flowered plants; emasculated, small flowers produced very few seeds, relative to intact, small flowers or either emasculated or intact, large flowers. We also show that the RA benefit is pollination-context dependent, differing between small- and large-flowered test sites, likely due to a combination of pollinator discrimination against small flowers and differences between test sites in the pollinator community. This paper is the first experimental evidence showing a trait-dependent RA benefit of selfing under natural pollination conditions.
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