PREMISE OF STUDYWhen coflowering plant species share pollinators, pollinator-mediated competition may favor divergent floral characters associated with pollinator attraction. One potential outcome of this process is that sympatric populations will display increased divergence in floral traits compared with allopatric populations. We developed a new system to study the pattern and process of character displacement. In the central Sierra Nevada of California, USA, Mimulus bicolor is a spring wildflower with two flower-color morphs, one of which resembles coflowering M. guttatus.
METHODSWe documented a fine-scale geographic pattern of character displacement in sympatric and allopatric patches and, using experimental arrays, measured seed set in M. bicolor color morphs in the presence versus absence of M. guttatus.
KEY RESULTSIn sympatric arrays yellow, guttatus-like M. bicolor morphs had lower relative fitness (0.35 ± 0.05) and reduced conspecific pollen deposition compared with the distinct alternative morph, whereas in allopatric arrays yellow, guttatus-like morphs were occasionally strongly favored.
CONCLUSIONSPollinator-mediated competition with M. guttatus is consistent with ecological character displacement in M. bicolor and likely contributes to a geographic pattern of character displacement.