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Plant Sensing and Communication as Adaptations

Plant Sensing and Communication as Adaptations

(p.139) 9 Plant Sensing and Communication as Adaptations
Plant Sensing and Communication
Richard Karban
University of Chicago Press

For a trait to be considered as an adaptation shaped by natural selection, it must have been variable, heritable, and increased the relative fitness of individuals that possessed it relative to other traits. Phylogenetic analyses can suggest the likely history of traits involved with plant sensing and communication. Three examples of sensing and communication are considered as adaptations. Anthocyanins provide visual cues that attract visitors to flowers and fruits. Anthocyanins are variable, heritable, and associated with increased plant fitness although it is not definitive that pollinators were the selective agents. Phytochrome receptors allow plants to sense their light environments and avoid being shaded. Plants that responded to light cues and assumed appropriate phenotypes had higher fitness than those that did not. Some deceptive flowers advertise to animal visitors but provide no actual rewards. Rewardless flowers attract visitors that cannot discriminate and such flowers may be associated with higher plant fitness. These examples indicate how difficult it is to evaluate how natural selection has shaped particular traits.

Keywords:   adaptation, anthocyanins, fitness, heritability, phylogenetic analysis, pollination, rewardless flowers, shade avoidance responses, variation

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