Authors: Alexandre, Hermine; Vrignaud, Justine; Joly, Simon
Publication: PeerJ
Year: 2015
Genera: Gesneria, Rhytidophyllum

Adaptation to pollinators is a key factor of diversification in angiosperms. The Caribbean sister genera Rhytidophyllum and Gesneria present an important diversification of floral characters. Most of their species can be divided in two major  pollination syndromes. Large-open flowers with pale colours and great amount of nectar represent the generalist syndrome, while the hummingbird-specialist syndrome corresponds to red tubular flowers with a less important nectar volume. Repeated convergent evolution toward the generalist syndrome in this group suggests that such transitions rely on few genes of moderate to large effect. To test this hypothesis, we built a linkage map and performed a QTL detection for divergent pollination syndrome traits by crossing one specimen of the generalist species Rhytidophyllum auriculatum with one specimen of the hummingbird pollinated R. rupincola. Using geometric morphometrics and univariate traits measurements, we found that floral shape among the second-generation hybrids is correlated with morphological variation observed between generalist and hummingbird-specialist species at the genus level. The QTL analysis showed that colour and nectar volume variation between syndromes involve each one major QTL while floral shape has a more complex genetic basis and rely on few genes of moderate effect. Finally, we did not detect any genetic linkage between the QTLs underlying those traits. This genetic independence of traits could have facilitated evolution toward optimal syndromes