Most plants are hermaphrodites (simultaneously male and female) and therefore have a range of mating options spanning a continuum from self-fertilization to outcrossing (mating with a non-relative). The evolution of increased selfing allows plants to colonize new habitats, which may have different herbivorous and pollinating insects. This shift in the biotic environment alters natural selection for plant characteristics such as flower size and scent, and chemical and physical defences. This project aims to understand how these characteristic evolve as a result of transitions to self-fertilization. The study species is lyre-leaved rock-cress, Arabidopsis lyrata, a wild mustard which occurs throughout North America. There have been transitions from outcrossing to selfing in numerous populations of this species, allowing us to ask how this fundamental shift in reproduction has shaped adaptation to herbivores and pollinators. This research will allow us to understand the factors that shape plant diversity.
Principal Investigators: Stephen Wright & Spencer C. H. Barrett