Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 433–445 | Cite as

Environmental context drives seed predator-mediated selection on a floral display trait

  • Annette KolbEmail author
  • Johan Ehrlén
Original Paper


Linking trait selection to environmental context is necessary to move beyond the simple recognition that selection is spatially variable and to understand what ultimately drives this variation. Natural selection acts through differences among individuals in lifetime fitness and information about effects on fitness components is therefore often not sufficient to gain such an understanding. We investigated how environmental context influenced intensity of seed predation, flower abortion and selection on floral display traits in 44–52 populations of the perennial herb Primula veris over 2 years. Phenotypic selection on both inflorescence height and flower number varied among populations and was mediated partly by pre-dispersal seed predation and flower abortion in one of the years. Among-population variation in selection on inflorescence height, but not flower number, was linked to variation in canopy cover via its effects on seed predation. Lifetime fitness was less sensitive to seed predator damage in shaded environments but estimates of selection based on lifetime fitness agreed qualitatively with those based on seed output. Our results demonstrate that seed predators constitute an important link between environmental conditions and trait evolution in plants, and that selection on plant traits by seed predators can depend on environmental context.


Environment Flower abortion Flower number Inflorescence height Lifetime fitness Phenotypic selection Pre-dispersal seed predation 



We thank Camilla Niklasson and Jessica Honkakangas for lab assistance, Johan Dahlgren for statistical advice and Dirk Enters for help with programming. We thank the Swedish Research Council (VR to J.E.), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT) for supporting our work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vegetation Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of EcologyUniversity of BremenBremenGermany
  2. 2.Department of BotanyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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