Flower Size as an Honest Signal in Royal Irises (Iris Section Oncocyclus, Iridaceae)

Sissi Lozada-Gobilard*, Nadine Nielsen, Yuval Sapir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Flower traits, such as flower size or color changes, can act as honest signals indicating greater rewards such as nectar; however, nothing is known about shelter-rewarding systems. Large flowers of Royal irises offer overnight shelter as a reward to Eucera bees. A black patch might signal the entrance to the tunnel (shelter) and, together with the flower size, these might act as honest signals. We hypothesize that larger flowers and black patches indicate larger tunnels, and larger tunnels will increase pollinator visits, enhancing the plants’ reproductive success. We measured seven species in a controlled environment and two species from three natural populations varying in flower size. Fruit and seed sets were assessed in these natural populations. We found a positive correlation between the flower, patch size, and tunnel volume, suggesting that the flowers and patch size act as honest signals, both under controlled conditions and in the wild. However, in natural populations, this positive relationship and its effect on fitness was population-specific. Flower size increased the fitness in YER I. petrana, and interactions between flower/patch size and tunnel size increased the fitness in YER and I. atropurpurea NET populations. This suggests that the honesty of the signal is positively selected in these two populations. This study supports the hypothesis that pollinator-mediated selection leads to the honest signaling of flower advertisement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2978
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2023


FundersFunder number
University of Potsdam—Tel Aviv University
Israel Science Foundation336/16


    • Oncocyclus
    • Royal irises
    • color signal
    • endemic plant species
    • fitness
    • floral traits
    • flower size
    • honest signal
    • morphometrics
    • shelter reward


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