The evolution of floral guides: Using a genetic algorithm to investigate the evolution of floral cue arrangements

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Many floral displays incorporate complex contrasting stimuli patterns in visual, olfactory and other sensory modalities. These 'floral guides' can increase pollen transfer rates and visitation rates for flowers while reducing the search times of pollinators. Although these guides are important in mediating the relationship between plants and pollinators, little is known about the evolution of these guides or the conditions needed for them to evolve. Here we use a novel approach by applying a genetic algorithm, a modelling method inspired by biological evolution, to investigate floral guide evolution. Specifically, we examine the ways in which pollinator behaviour can affect the evolution of radiating floral guides and what conditions are necessary for this development. The results suggest that flower size and pollinator directionality, starting location and movement type affect the development of radiating guides. A preference for cues over a lack of cue is also necessary for this development. These findings suggest that radiating floral guides can evolve independently of specific perceptual biases by the pollinator other than a preference for cues over their absence. Despite these findings, we are aware of the limitations of computational models, and hope that these findings inform and motivate future models and empirical studies.




Lawson, D. A., & Rands, S. A. (2018). The evolution of floral guides: Using a genetic algorithm to investigate the evolution of floral cue arrangements. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 123(4), 739–753.

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