Flower color can be a major determinant of plant fitness, not only because of preferential visitation by pollinators but also because of pleiotropic relationships between the expression of floral pigments and biochemically related compounds that influence vegetative performance variables. Different environments may therefore favor different pigmentation phenotypes. We examined whether spatially varying selection has played a major role in shaping large-scale patterns of differentiation in two subspecies of Nigella degenii (Ranunculaceae), with particular emphasis on pollen color. The two subspecies appear to have been genetically isolated for substantial periods of time and, therefore, provide a “replicated test” for the effect of natural selection. Estimates of population structure based on a suite of floral and vegetative characters were compared with the corresponding data for amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers, which were assumed to be selectively neutral. We found low levels of genetic structure within the subspecies using both the AFLP markers (FST ≤ 0.05) and quantitative characters (QST ≤ 0.15), with no statistically significant differences between the two measures. There is, therefore, no evidence of diversifying selection being important in structuring variation in quantitative characters within each of the two subspecies. In contrast, estimates of differentiation in pollen color (FST ≥ 0.10) significantly exceeded the neutral expectations (estimated from AFLP data), suggesting that local adaptation has played a key role in the evolution of this monogenic character.
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Vol. 60 • No. 3