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Apr 01, 2013
The coexistence of different color morphs is often attributed to variable selection pressures across space, time, morph frequencies, or selection agents, but the routes by which each morph is favored are rarely identified. In this study we investigated factors that influence floral color polymorphisms on a local scale in Protea, within which approximately 40% of species are polymorphic. Previous work shows that seed predators and reproductive differences likely contribute to maintaining polymorphism in four Protea species. We explored whether selection acts directly or indirectly on floral color in two populations of Protea aurea, using path analysis of pollinator behavior, nectar production, seed predation, color, morphology, and maternal fecundity fitness components. We found that avian pollinators spent more time on white morphs, likely due to nectar differences, but that this had no apparent consequences for fecundity. Instead, the number of flowers per inflorescence underpinned many of the reproductively important differences between color morphs. White morphs had more flowers per inflorescence, which itself was positively correlated with nectar production, seed predator occurrence, and total long-term seed production. The number of seeds per plant to survive predation, in contrast, was not directly associated with color or any other floral trait. Thus, although color differences may be associated with conflicting selection pressures, the selection appears to be associated with the number of flowers per inflorescence and its unmeasured correlates, rather than with inflorescence color itself.

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