Additive effects of pollinators and herbivores result in both conflicting and reinforcing selection on floral traits

Ecology. 2015 Jan;96(1):214-21. doi: 10.1890/14-0119.1.


Mutualists and antagonists are known to respond to similar floral cues, and may thus cause opposing selection on floral traits. However, we lack a quantitative understanding of their independent and interactive effects. In a population of the orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, we manipulated the intensity of pollination and herbivory in a factorial design to examine whether both interactions influence selection on flowering phenology, floral display, and morphology. Supplemental hand-pollination increased female fitness by 31% and one-quarter of all plants were damaged by herbivores. Both interactions contributed to selection. Pollinators mediated selection for later flowering and herbivores for earlier flowering, while both selected for longer spurs. The strength of selection was similar for both agents, and their effects were additive. As a consequence, there was no. net selection on phenology, whereas selection on spur length was strong. The experimental results demonstrate that both pollinators and herbivores can markedly influence the strength of selection on flowering phenology and floral morphology, and cause both conflicting and reinforcing selection. They also indicate that the direction of selection on phenology will vary with the relative intensity of the mutualistic and antagonistic interaction, potentially resulting in both temporal and among-population variation in optimal flowering time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Flowers / physiology*
  • Herbivory*
  • Insecta
  • Orchidaceae / genetics*
  • Pollination*
  • Selection, Genetic*