Identification of major quantitative trait loci underlying floral pollination syndrome divergence in Penstemon

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014 Aug 5;369(1648):20130349. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0349.


Distinct floral pollination syndromes have emerged multiple times during the diversification of flowering plants. For example, in western North America, a hummingbird pollination syndrome has evolved more than 100 times, generally from within insect-pollinated lineages. The hummingbird syndrome is characterized by a suite of floral traits that attracts and facilitates pollen movement by hummingbirds, while at the same time discourages bee visitation. These floral traits generally include large nectar volume, red flower colour, elongated and narrow corolla tubes and reproductive organs that are exerted from the corolla. A handful of studies have examined the genetic architecture of hummingbird pollination syndrome evolution. These studies find that mutations of relatively large effect often explain increased nectar volume and transition to red flower colour. In addition, they suggest that adaptive suites of floral traits may often exhibit a high degree of genetic linkage, which could facilitate their fixation during pollination syndrome evolution. Here, we explore these emerging generalities by investigating the genetic basis of floral pollination syndrome divergence between two related Penstemon species with different pollination syndromes--bee-pollinated P. neomexicanus and closely related hummingbird-pollinated P. barbatus. In an F2 mapping population derived from a cross between these two species, we characterized the effect size of genetic loci underlying floral trait divergence associated with the transition to bird pollination, as well as correlation structure of floral trait variation. We find the effect sizes of quantitative trait loci for adaptive floral traits are in line with patterns observed in previous studies, and find strong evidence that suites of floral traits are genetically linked. This linkage may be due to genetic proximity or pleiotropic effects of single causative loci. Interestingly, our data suggest that the evolution of floral traits critical for hummingbird pollination was not constrained by negative pleiotropy at loci that show co-localization for multiple traits.

Keywords: Penstemon; QTL; genetics of adaptation; phenotypic correlation; pollination syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Flowers / anatomy & histology*
  • Genotype
  • Penstemon / genetics*
  • Penstemon / physiology*
  • Pigmentation / genetics
  • Pollination / genetics*
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics*
  • Southwestern United States
  • Species Specificity