Structured Generalization: evolutionary dynamics at fine spatial scales in a generalist system – A scientific project funded by the Ministry of Economy and Innovation
We called this project STRUGEN or” Structured Generalization: evolutionary dynamics at fine spatial scales in a generalist system”. In pollination generalist systems, all plant genotypes in a population are assumed to interact with random subsets of the overall pollinator pool. We think that the generalization degree of a given plant could be non random, but related with some intrinsic and extrinsic factors, such as its microenvironment, its spatial location in the population, and most important, its phenotype and genotype. Plants exhibiting different values for those factors would attract different subset of pollinators, and plants showing different values of those traits would share similar subgroups of pollinators. These inter-individual differences could promote a structured pattern of interaction among the plant and its pollinators, a phenomenon that we call structured generalization. We propose that structured generalization occurs when there are non-random inter-individual differences in generalization and the intraspecific pollination and mating networks at population level are divided in subgroups of plants sharing similar pollinators (i.e., network is clustered).
The main aim of STRUGEN is to explore the occurrence of pollinator-mediated structured generalization, the factors favouring or cancelling it, and their potential evolutionary and functional consequences. Using our previous experience working with the extremely generalist crucifer Erysimum mediohispanicum, we will carry out observational and experimental approaches to evaluate the relative importance of the spatial structure, the micro-environment and the genotype/phenotype in shaping the generalization degree of plants belonging to the same population. We will assess the structure and clustering pattern of the pollination and mating intraspecific networks emerging from those interactions and we will also analyse how individual differences in the degree of generalization affect plant fitnesses.
Francisco Perfectti (PI), José M. Gómez, Juan Lorite, Noelia Jiménez, Cristina García, Javier Valverde (PhD Student)