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Department of Biological Sciences

The Wessinger lab published a new study in Integrative & Comparative Biology

Flowers have evolved remarkable diversity in petal color, in large part due to pollinator-mediated selection. This diversity arises from specialized metabolic pathways that generate conspicuous pigments. Despite the clear link between flower color and floral pigment production, quantitative models inferring predictive relationships between pigmentation and reflectance spectra have not been reported. In their new study titled "Predictive Links between Petal Color and Pigment Quantities in Natural Penstemon Hybrids", graduate student Josh Stevens, his mentor Dr. Carrie Wessinger and lab members Luke Wheeler, Noah Williams and Alice Norton, analyzed a dataset consisting of hundreds of natural Penstemon hybrids that exhibit variation in flower color, including blue, purple, pink, and red. By measuring anthocyanin pigment content and petal spectral reflectance, they found that floral pigment quantities are correlated with hue, chroma, and brightness. They further used a partial least squares regression approach to identify predictive relationships between pigment production and petal reflectance, and found that pigment quantity data provide robust predictions of spectral attributes, especially hue. Their findings suggest potential causal genetic mechanisms for flower color variation within this population.

Penstemon flowers

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