Floral integration, phenotypic covariance structure and pollinator variation in bumblebee-pollinated Helleborus foetidus

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By analysing patterns of phenotypic integration and multivariate covariance structure of five metric floral traits in nine Iberian populations of bumblebee-pollinated Helleborus foetidus (Ranunculaceae), this paper attempts to test the general hypothesis that pollinators enhance floral integration and selectively modify phenotypic correlations between functionally linked floral traits. The five floral traits examined exhibited significant phenotypic integration at all populations, and both the magnitude and the pattern of integration differed widely among populations. Variation in extent and pattern of integration was neither distance-dependent nor significantly related to between-population variation in taxonomical composition and morphological diversity of the pollinator assemblage. Patterns of floral integration were closer to expectations derived from consideration of developmental affinities between floral whorls than to expectations based on a pollinator-mediated adaptive hypothesis. Taken together, results of this study suggest that between-population differences in magnitude and pattern of floral integration in H. foetidus are probably best explained as a consequence of random genetic sampling in the characteristically small and ephemeral populations of this species, rather than reflecting the selective action of current pollinators.

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