Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Measuring, comparing and interpreting phenotypic selection on floral scent

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


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.


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

Published in

Journal of Evolutionary Biology
2022, volume: 35, number: 11, pages: 1432-1441
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Opedal, Oystein H.
Lund University
Gross, Karin
Salzburg University
Chapurlat, Elodie
Uppsala University
Chapurlat, Elodie
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Parachnowitsch, Amy
University of New Brunswick
Joffard, Nina
Universite de Lille - ISITE
Sletvold, Nina
Uppsala University
Ovaskainen, Otso
University of Jyvaskyla
Ovaskainen, Otso
University of Helsinki
Ovaskainen, Otso
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Friberg, Magne
Lund University

UKÄ Subject classification

Evolutionary Biology

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)