Using ecological context to interpret spatiotemporal variation in natural selection

Elena Albertsen, Øystein H. Opedal, Geir Hysing Bolstad, Rocio Perez-Barrales, Thomas F. Hansen, Christophe Pélabon, Scott Armbruster

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Spatiotemporal variation in natural selection is expected, but difficult to estimate. Pollinator-mediated selection on floral traits provides a good system for understanding and linking variation in selection to changes in ecological context. We studied pollinator-mediated selection in five populations of Dalechampia scandens (Euphorbiaceae) in Costa Rica and Mexico. Using a nonlinear path-analytical approach, we assessed several functional components of selection, and linked variation in pollinator-mediated selection across time and space to variation in pollinator communities. After correcting for estimation error, we detected moderate variation in net selection on two of four blossom traits. Both the opportunity for selection and the mean strength of selection decreased with increasing reliability of cross-pollination. Selection for pollinator attraction was consistently positive and stronger on advertisement than reward traits. Selection on pollen transfer from the pollinator to the stigmas was strong only when there was a mismatch between pollinator and blossom size in the presence of unreliable cross-pollination. These results illustrate how consideration of trait function and ecological context can facilitate both the detection and the causal understanding of spatiotemporal variation in natural selection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-309
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Early online date23 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Dalechampia scandens
  • eco-evolutionary dynamics
  • phenotypic selection
  • plant-pollinator interactions
  • pollen limitation
  • spatial variation
  • temporal variation
  • path analysis


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