Measuring, comparing and interpreting phenotypic selection on floral scent

Øystein H. Opedal, Karin Gross, Elodie Chapurlat, Amy Parachnowitsch, Nina Joffard, Nina Sletvold, Otso Ovaskainen, Magne Friberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Natural selection on floral scent composition is a key element of the hypothesis that pollinators and other floral visitors drive scent evolution. The measure of such selection is complicated by the high-dimensional nature of floral scent data and uncertainty about the cognitive processes involved in scent-mediated communication. We use dimension reduction through reduced-rank regression to jointly estimate a scent composite trait under selection and the strength of selection acting on this trait. To assess and compare variation in selection on scent across species, time and space, we reanalyse 22 datasets on six species from four previous studies. The results agreed qualitatively with previous analyses in terms of identifying populations and scent compounds subject to stronger selection but also allowed us to evaluate and compare the strength of selection on scent across studies. Doing so revealed that selection on floral scent was highly variable, and overall about as common and as strong as selection on other phenotypic traits involved in pollinator attraction or pollen transfer. These results are consistent with an important role of floral scent in pollinator attraction. Our approach should be useful for further studies of plant–animal communication and for studies of selection on other high-dimensional phenotypes. In particular, our approach will be useful for studies of pollinator-mediated selection on complex scent blends comprising many volatiles, and when no prior information on the physiological responses of pollinators to scent compounds is available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1432-1441
JournalJournal of evolutionary biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Nov

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Evolutionary Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Society for Evolutionary Biology.

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Evolutionary Biology

Free keywords

  • floral fragrance
  • floral scent
  • natural selection
  • plant–pollinator interactions
  • reduced-rank regression
  • selection gradient


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