Image_2_All the Colors of the Rainbow: Diversification of Flower Color and Intraspecific Color Variation in the Genus Iris.JPEG (5.37 MB)

Image_2_All the Colors of the Rainbow: Diversification of Flower Color and Intraspecific Color Variation in the Genus Iris.JPEG

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posted on 13.10.2020 by Katarzyna Roguz, M. Kate Gallagher, Esther Senden, Yamit Bar-Lev, Merav Lebel, Roni Heliczer, Yuval Sapir

Floral color plays a key role as visual signaling and is therefore of great importance in shaping plant-pollinator interactions. Iris (Iridaceae), a genus comprising over 300 species and named after the Greek goddess of the colorful rainbow, is famous for its dazzling palette of flower colors and patterns, which vary considerably both within and among species. Despite the large variation of flower color in Iris, little is known about the phylogenetic and ecological contexts of floral color. Here, we seek to resolve the evolution of flower color in the genus Iris in a macroevolutionary framework. We used a phylogenetic analysis to reconstruct the ancestral state of flower color and other pollination-related traits (e.g., the presence of nectar and mating system), and also tracked the evolution of color variation. We further explored weather floral trait transitions are better explained by environmental or pollinator-mediated selection. Our study revealed that the most recent common ancestor likely had monomorphic, purple flowers, with a crest and a spot on the fall. The flowers were likely insect-pollinated, nectar-rewarding, and self-compatible. The diversity of floral traits we see in modern irises, likely represents a trade-off between conflicting selection pressures. Whether shifts in these flower traits result from abiotic or biotic selective agents or are maintained by neutral processes without any selection remains an open question. Our analysis serves as a starting point for future work exploring the genetic and physiological mechanisms controlling flower coloration in the most color-diverse genus Iris.

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