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Am Nat. 2006 Mar;167(3):315-28. Epub 2005 Jan 30.

The consequences of direct versus indirect species interactions to selection on traits: pollination and nectar robbing in Ipomopsis aggregata.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA. rebecca.irwin@dartmouth.edu


Organisms experience a complex suite of species interactions. Although the ecological consequences of direct versus indirect species interactions have received attention, their evolutionary implications are not well understood. I examined selection on floral traits through direct versus indirect pathways of species interactions using the plant Ipomopsis aggregata and its pollinators and nectar robber. Using path analysis and structural equation modeling, I tested competing hypotheses comparing the relative importance of direct (pollinator-mediated) versus indirect (robber-mediated) interactions to trait selection through female plant function in 2 years. The hypothesis that provided the best fit to the observed data included robbing and pollination, suggesting that both interactors are important in driving selection on some traits; however, the direction and intensity of selection through robbing versus pollination varied between years. I then increased my scope of inference by assessing traits and species interactions across more years. I found that the potential for temporal variation in the direction and intensity of selection was pronounced. Taken together, results suggest that assessing the broader context in which organisms evolve, including both direct and indirect interactions and across multiple years, can provide increased mechanistic understanding of the diversity of ways that animals shape floral and plant evolution.

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