Floral adaptations to specific pollinators like corolla shape variation often result in reproductive isolation and thus speciation. But despite their ecological importance, the genetic bases of corolla shape transitions are still poorly understood, especially outside model species. Hence, our goal was to identify candidate genes potentially involved in corolla shape variation between two closely related species of the Rhytidophyllum genus (Gesneriaceae family) from the Antilles with contrasting pollination strategies. Rhytidophyllum rupincola has a tubular corolla and is strictly pollinated by hummingbirds, whereas R. auriculatum has more open flowers and is pollinated by hummingbirds, bats, and insects. We surveyed the literature and used a comparative transcriptome sequence analysis of synonymous and non-synonymous nucleotide substitutions to obtain a list of genes that could explain floral variation between R. auriculatum and R. rupincola. We then tested their association with corolla shape variation using QTL mapping in a F2 hybrid population. Out of 28 genes tested, three were found to be good candidates because of a strong association with corolla shape: RADIALIS, GLOBOSA, and JAGGED. Although the role of these genes in Rhytidophyllum corolla shape variation remains to be confirmed, these findings are a first step towards identifying the genes that have been under selection by pollinators and thus involved in reproductive isolation and speciation in this genus.
Testing candidate genes linked to corolla shape variation of a pollinator shift in Rhytidophyllum (Gesneriaceae)
Publication: PLOS ONE