Do specialized flowers promote reproductive isolation? realized pollination accuracy of three sympatric Pedicularis species

Scott Armbruster, Xiao-Qing Shi, Shuang-Quan Huang

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Background and Aims - Interest in pollinator-mediated evolutionary divergence of flower phenotype and speciation in plants has been at the core of plant evolutionary studies since Darwin. Specialized pollination is predicted to lead to reproductive isolation and promote speciation among sympatric species by promoting partitioning of (1) the species of pollinators used, (2) when pollinators are used, or (3) the sites of pollen placement. Here this last mechanism is investigated by observing the pollination accuracy of sympatric Pedicularis species (Orobanchacae).

Methods - Pollinator behaviour was observed on three species of Pedicularis (P. densispica, P. tricolor and P. dichotoma) in the Hengduan Mountains, south-west China. Using fluorescent powder and dyed pollen, the accuracy was assessed of stigma contact with, and pollen deposition on, pollinating bumble-bees, respectively.

Key Results - All three species of Pedicularis were pollinated by bumble-bees. It was found that the adaptive accuracy of female function was much higher than that of male function in all three flower species. Although peak pollen deposition corresponded to the optimal location on the pollinator (i.e. the site of stigma contact) for each species, substantial amounts of pollen were scattered over much of the bees' bodies.

Conclusions - The Pedicularis species studied in the eastern Himalayan region did not conform with Grant's ‘Pedicularis Model’ of mechanical reproductive isolation. The specialized flowers of this diverse group of plants seem unlikely to have increased the potential for reproductive isolation or influenced rates of speciation. It is suggested instead that the extreme species richness of the Pedicularis clade was generated in other ways and that specialized flowers and substantial pollination accuracy evolved as a response to selection generated by the diversity of co-occurring congeners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-340
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number2
Early online date18 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


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