What Maintains Flower Colour Variation within Populations?

Yuval Sapir, M. Kate Gallagher, Esther Senden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Natural selection acts on phenotypic trait variation. Understanding the mechanisms that create and maintain trait variation is fundamental to understanding the breadth of diversity seen on Earth. Flower colour is among the most conspicuous and highly diverse traits in nature. Most flowering plant populations have uniform floral colours, but a minority exhibit within-population colour variation, either discrete (polymorphic) or continuous. Colour variation is commonly maintained by balancing selection through multiple pollinators, opposing selection regimes, or fluctuating selection. Variation can also be maintained by heterozygote advantage or frequency-dependent selection. Neutral processes, or a lack of selection, may maintain variation, although this remains largely untested. We suggest several prospective research directions that may provide insight into the evolutionary drivers of trait variation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-519
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • balancing selection
  • flower colour
  • plant reproduction
  • pollinator-mediated selection
  • polymorphism
  • trait variation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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