Pollinator preferences and the persistence of crop genes in wild radish populations (Raphanus raphanistrum, Brassicaceae)

TitlePollinator preferences and the persistence of crop genes in wild radish populations (Raphanus raphanistrum, Brassicaceae)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsLee TN, Snow AA
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany

Crop-weed hybridization can potentially influence the evolutionary ecology of wild populations. Many crops are known to hybridize with wild relatives, but few studies have looked at the long-term persistence of crop genes in the wild. This study investigated one factor in the hybridization process in radish:differential pollinator visitation to wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) vs. crop-wild F1 hybrids (R. sativus x R. raphanistrum). Wild genotypes had yellow flowers, a recessive single-locus trait, whereas hybrids always had white or pale pink flowers. In experimental arrays in northern Michigan, total pollinator visitation was significantly biased toward wild plants when the frequencies of wild and hybrid plants were equal. Syrphid flies, the most frequent visitors, preferred wild plants while bumble bees showed no preference. This pattern was also observed when hybrid plants were overrepresented in the array (12 hybrid: 2 wild). In contrast, when hybrid plants were rare (2 hybrid: 12 wild), neither morph was preferred by any pollinator group. Later in the summer, pollinators were also observed in a large experimental garden with nearly equal frequencies of wild and hybrid plants. Cabbage butterflies (Pieris rapae) strongly overvisited wild plants, while bumble bees showed a slight preference for hybrids. Taken together, these studies suggest that F1 hybrids may not be at a disadvantage with regard to pollinator visits when they occur at low frequencies or when bumble bees are frequent flower visitors. Thus, variation in the proportion of white-flowered morphs among wild radish populations could be influenced by different histories of crop-to-wild hybridization, as well as by variation in the composition of local pollinator taxa.