, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 291-300

Plant dispersion, pollination and gene flow in Viola

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The effect of pollinator activity on gene flow in colonies of Viola were examined by measuring pollinator flight distances, the frequency of interplant flights and percent pollination under different plant spacing patterns. Pollinator flight distances were directly proportional to spacing parameters while the frequency of interplant flights and percent pollination were inversely proportional to spacing parameters. These findings show that gene flow is reduced by pollinator activity over a wide range of spacing parameters but in populations with low spacing means highly localized gene exchange can occur within the colony. Isolation of colonies may be expected under these circumstaces and cleistogamy may be the optimal breeding system. However, chasmogamous flowers may be important both in promoting within-colony gene exchange and long distance between-colony gene exchange corresponding to the sexual functions proposed in several recent models. Viola colonies appear to be semi-isolated demes with pollinator service which can bring adaptive genes to high localized frequencies, but which maintains low frequency, long-distance gene dispersal. This pattern corresponds to the “Shifting Balance” view of evolution.