Biology ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 8-31-2018


Pollinator-mediated selection is expected to constrain floral color variation within plant populations, yet populations with high color variability are common in nature. To explore this, we collected floral reflectance spectra for 34 populations of 14 plant species of New Mexico, USA, and translated them into three different visual spaces. We found evidence that the majority comparisons were indistinguishable to bees, the dominant pollinator group. We also found that floral color variation was significantly greater for two non-pollinating groups, birds and humans. Our results suggest that a portion of human-perceived floral color variation within populations persists because it is invisible to pollinators, and may evolve neutrally or via indirect selection on correlated characters. Our results suggest an explanation for the fact that many studies of floral color polymorphisms are unable to detect pollinator-mediated selection on color, yet often find evidence for non-pollinator-mediated selection.




plant-pollinator interactions, signaling, bee vision, nautral selection, color polymorphism

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

Kenneth Whitney

Second Committee Member

Jennifer Rudgers

Third Committee Member

Diane Marshall

Included in

Biology Commons