Loss of color pigmentation is maintained at high frequency in a monkey flower population

Alex D. Twyford, Aaron M. Caola, Pratibha Choudhary, Ramesh Raina, Jannice Friedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Color polymorphisms have long been of evolutionary interest for their diverse roles, including mate choice, predator avoidance, and pollinator attraction. While color variation is often under strong selection, some taxa demonstrate unexpectedly high frequencies of presumed deleterious color forms. Here we show that a genetic variant underlying complete loss of anthocyanin pigmentation has risen to an unexpectedly high frequency of >0.2 in a natural population of the plant Mimulus guttatus. Decreased expression of MYB5 transcription factor is associated with unpigmented morphs. While the allele was found only in heterozygote adults in the wild, suggesting negative selection, experiments were unable to demonstrate a fitness cost for unpigmented plants, suggesting a cryptic selection pressure in the wild. However, life-history differences among morphs suggests that unpigmented individuals ben-efitfromlaterflowering and clonal growth. Overall, our study highlights the complex interplay of factors maintaining variation in nature, even for genes of major effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-145
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Anthocyanin
  • Genetic variation
  • Mimulus guttatus
  • Polymorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Loss of color pigmentation is maintained at high frequency in a monkey flower population'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this