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    Pigmentation affords resistance to abiotic stressors, and thus can respond adaptively or plastically to drought and extreme temperatures associated with global change. Plants frequently display variability in flower coloration that is underlain by anthocyanin pigmentation. While anthocyanin polymorphisms impact plant-animal interactions, they also impact reproductive performance under abiotic stress. We used descriptions of flower colour from over 1900 herbarium records representing 12 North American species spanning 124 years to test whether anthocyanin-based flower colour has responded to global change. Based on demonstrated abiotic associations with performance of anthocyanin colour morphs, we predicted pigmentation would increase in species experiencing increased aridity, but decline in those experiencing larger increases in temperature. We found that the frequency of reports of pigmented morphs increased temporally in some taxa but displayed subtle declines in others. Pigmentation was negatively associated with temperature and positively associated with vapour pressure deficit (a metric of aridity) across taxa. Species experiencing larger temperature increases over time displayed reductions in pigmentation, while those experiencing increases in aridity displayed increases in pigmentation. Change in anthocyanin-based floral colour was thus linked with climatic change. Altered flower coloration has the strong potential to impact plant-animal interactions and overall plant reproductive performance.


    Cierra N Sullivan, Matthew H Koski. The effects of climate change on floral anthocyanin polymorphisms. Proceedings. Biological sciences. 2021 Mar 10;288(1946):20202693

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    PMID: 33653138

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