Plasticity-mediated floral convergence triggers the exploration of new generalist pollination niches
ID: 613 / 393
Proposed Symposium Title: Plasticity-mediated floral convergence triggers the exploration of new generalist pollination niches
José M. Gómez1,2, Adela González-Megías2,3, Eduardo Narbona4, Luis Navarro5, Francisco Perfectti2,6, Cristina Armas1
Affiliations: 1Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas (EEZA-CSIC), Almería, Spain. 2Research Unit Modeling Nature, Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain. 3Dpto. de Zoología, Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain. 4Dpto. de Biología Molecular e Ingeniería Bioquímica, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Sevilla, Spain. 5Dpto. de Biología Vegetal y Ciencias del Suelo, Universidad de Vigo, Vigo, Spain. 6Dpto. de Genética, Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain.
Phenotypic convergence is a ubiquitous phenomenon that reveals the multiple evolutionary constraints that face the organisms and illustrates the ability of natural selection to find similar solutions to similar ecological problems. Uncovering the possible mechanisms behind the origin of convergence remains a fundamental goal in biology. Evolutionary theory shows that convergent phenotypes emerge through independent genetic changes selected over long periods of time. Here we show that convergence can also arise through phenotypic plasticity. By compiling the multidimensional floral phenotype, the phylogenetic relationships, and the pollination niche of more than 3000 Brassicaceae species, we demonstrated that the mustard species Moricandia arvensis exhibits a plastic-mediated intra-individual floral disparity greater than that found not only between species but also between higher taxonomical levels such as genera and tribes. As a consequence of this floral divergence, M. arvensis moves outside the morphospace region occupied by its recent ancestors and close relatives, crosses into a new region where it encounters a different pollination niche and converges phenotypically with distant Brassicaceae lineages. We suggest that, by inducing several phenotypes that explore simultaneously different regions of the morphological space, plasticity may not only promote the evolution of novelties but also trigger rapid phenotypic convergence.