Viability selection prior to trait expression is an essential component of natural selection

Julius P. Mojica, John K. Kelly


Natural selection operates throughout the life cycle of an organism. Correlative studies typically fail to consider the effects of viability selection prior to trait expression. A 3-year field experiment on the wildflower Mimulus guttatus demonstrates that this unmeasured component of selection can be very strong. As in previous studies, we find that fecundity is positively related to flower size. However, survival to flowering is much lower in large-flowered genotypes than in small-flowered genotypes. Aggregating viability and fecundity, lifetime fitness through female function generally favoured smaller flowered genotypes. This result differs from the great majority of field studies, which suggest strong positive selection on flower size. It has important cautionary implications for studies of natural and sexual selection on adult characters generally, in both plants and animals.


    • Received March 17, 2010.
    • Accepted April 20, 2010.
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