Ecological Causes and Evolutionary Consequences of Fitness Variation in Lobelia cardinalis
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Understanding the functional relationship between characters and components of fitness is a central goal of evolutionary biology. The studies in this thesis examined the ecological causes and evolutionary consequences underlying differences in fitness among individuals of Lobelia cardinalis. Flowering plants experience selection from many sources, which may enhance or oppose selection by pollinators. In the second chapter of this thesis, the role of pollinators and herbivores in shaping selection on floral characters was investigated. Floral traits experienced pollinator-mediated selection and weak selection by weevil larvae and slugs. Because pollinators also forage according to local density of flowers, in the fourth chapter I explored how local density of individual plants and flowers influences fitness of individual plants. Plants at dense sites produced more seeds, consistent with pollinator preference for denser patches. Individual female-phase flowers produced more seeds as the density of surrounding male-phase flowers increased and female-phase flowers decreased. This study highlights how plant phenotype and local density influence pollination and subsequent plant fitness. In L. cardinalis rosette formation (a life-history character) partly shapes the distribution of plants, and may influence plant survival and fitness. In the fifth chapter, I explored how variation in allocation to clonal reproduction among plants (ramets) and genets influenced survival and fitness. Plants that produced more and larger rosettes realized higher survival independent of the phenotype of the parental. Plants that produced one rosette in 2009 produced more seeds in 2010 than plants that produced more than one rosette. This pattern was reversed in the following time period; plants that produced more rosettes in 2010 produced more seeds in 2011. The relative importance of pollinators versus other selective agents in shaping floral traits, as well as the intensity of competition among individual plants and flowers likely depend on the extent to which reproduction is pollen limited. In the third chapter, I explored how pollen limitation affected selection on floral traits via female fitness and found a weak relationship. Although this seems to contradict intuition, several reasons may limit the influence of pollen limitation on selection.