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Why does bouncing bet blush?

Dana Dudle, Elisabeth Wilson, Michael Tobin, Trung Nguyen, Kenneth Cruz, Scott Lockwood

Biology Department, DePauw University

The flowers of bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis) show sexual dimorphism.  start as pale, white males and develop into pink females. Our lab has shown that the extent of the color change is determined by both environmental (sunlight) and genetic factors.  Surprisingly, pink flowers attract fewer pollinators and produce fewer seeds than pale flowers. Because the production of pink pigments appears to be maladaptive but still persists in populations, our research is testing several hypotheses that might explain the potential persistence of pinkness: (1) Which environmental cues trigger the pink color? (2) Do nighttime pollinators have a color preference? (3) Which enzymes are responsible for the expression of pinkness in flowers? (4) Can selection act on flower color? Our collaborative effort will shed light on the relationships between enzyme expression, pigment production, pollinator attraction, and evolutionary fitness.