Castries, Saint Lucia
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Ongoing convergent evolution of a selfing syndrome threatens plant–pollinator interactions


  • Plant–pollinator interactions evolved early in the angiosperm radiation. Ongoing environmental changes are however leading to pollinator declines that may cause pollen limitation to plants and change the evolutionary pressures shaping plant mating systems.
  • We used resurrection ecology methodology to contrast ancestors and contemporary descendants in four natural populations of the field pansy (Viola arvensis) in the Paris region (France), a depauperate pollinator environment. We combine population genetics analysis, phenotypic measurements and behavioural tests on a common garden experiment.
  • Population genetics analysis reveals 27% increase in realized selfing rates in the field during this period. We documented trait evolution towards smaller and less conspicuous corollas, reduced nectar production and reduced attractiveness to bumblebees, with these trait shifts convergent across the four studied populations.
  • We demonstrate the rapid evolution of a selfing syndrome in the four studied plant populations, associated with a weakening of the interactions with pollinators over the last three decades. This study demonstrates that plant mating systems can evolve rapidly in natural populations in the face of ongoing environmental changes. The rapid evolution towards a selfing syndrome may in turn further accelerate pollinator declines, in an eco-evolutionary feedback loop with broader implications to natural ecosystems.

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