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Evidence of between-population differences in natural selection on extra-floral nectaries of the shrub Anemopaegma album (Bignoniaceae)

Nogueira, Anselmo, Rey, Pedro J., Alcántara, Julio M., Lohmann, Lúcia G.
Botany 2016 v.94 no.3 pp. 201-213
Bignoniaceae, genetic variation, herbivores, heritability, natural selection, nectaries, progeny, savannas, shrubs, tropics
Extra-floral nectaries (EFNs) are thought to represent protective adaptations against herbivory, but studies on the evolutionary ecology of EFNs have seldom been conducted. Here we investigate the patterns of natural selection and genetic variation in EFN traits in two wild populations of Anemopaegma album Mart. ex DC. (Bignoniaceae) that have been previously described as contrasting EFN – ant adapted localities in the Neotropical savanna (Cristália and Grão Mogol). In each population, four EFN descriptors, foliar damage, and reproductive success variables were measured per plant (100–120 plants per population). To estimate the heritability of EFN traits, we crossed reproductive plants in the field, and grew offspring plants in a common garden. The results showed that ant assemblages differed between populations, as did the range of foliar herbivory. Genetic variation and positive phenotypic selection in EFN abundance were only detected in the Cristália population, in which plants with more EFNs were more likely to reproduce. An evaluation of putative causal links conducted by path analysis corroborated the existence of phenotypic selection on EFNs, which was mediated by the herbivory process in the Cristália population. While EFNs could be currently under selection in Cristália, it is possible that past selection may have driven EFN traits to become locally adapted to the local ant assemblage in the Grão Mogol population.