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Extreme diversification of floral volatiles within and among species of Lithophragma (Saxifragaceae)

  • Magne Friberg
  • Christopher Schwind
  • Paulo R. Guimarães
  • Robert A. Raguso
  • John N. Thompson
Publishing year: 2019
Language: English
Pages: 4406-4415
Publication/Series: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume: 116
Issue: 10
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: National Acad Sciences

Abstract english

A major challenge in evolutionary biology is to understand how complex traits of multiple functions have diversified and codiversified across interacting lineages and geographic ranges. We evaluate intra- and interspecific variation in floral scent, which is a complex trait of documented importance for mutualistic and antagonistic interactions between plants, pollinators, and herbivores. We performed a large-scale, phylogenetically structured study of an entire plant genus (Lithophragma, Saxifragaceae), of which several species are coevolving with specialized pollinating floral parasites of the moth genus Greya (Prodoxidae). We sampled 94 Lithophragma populations distributed across all 12 recognized Lithophragma species and subspecies, and four populations of related saxifragaceous species. Our results reveal an unusually high diversity of floral volatiles among populations, species, and clades within the genus. Moreover, we found unexpectedly major changes at each of these levels in the biosynthetic pathways used by local populations in their floral scents. Finally, we detected significant, but variable, genus- and species-level patterns of ecological convergence in the floral scent signal, including an impact of the presence and absence of two pollinating Greya moth species. We propose that one potential key to understanding floral scent variation in this hypervariable genus is its geographically diverse interactions with the obligate specialized Greya moths and, in some species and sites, more generalized copollinators.


  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Floral parasitism
  • Floral volatiles
  • Geographic mosaic of coevolution
  • Geographic variation
  • Pollination


  • ISSN: 0027-8424
Magne Friberg
E-mail: magne [dot] friberg [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Associate senior lecturer


+46 46 222 89 68


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Research group

Evolutionary Ecology of Plant–Insect Interactions


Magne Friberg lab

Doctoral Students and Postdocs

Main supervisor

Hampus Petrén

Assistant supervisor

Isidora Longarevic


Karin Gross