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Plant–hummingbird interactions in the West Indies: floral specialisation gradients associated with environment and hummingbird size

By Bo Dalsgaard, Ana Gonzalez, Jens Olesen, Jeff Ollerton, Allan Timmermann, Laila Andersen and Adrianne Tossas


Floral phenotype and pollination system of a\ud plant may be influenced by the abiotic environment and the\ud local pollinator assemblage. This was investigated in seven\ud plant–hummingbird assemblages on the West Indian\ud islands of Grenada, Dominica and Puerto Rico. We report\ud all hummingbird and insect pollinators of 49 hummingbirdpollinated\ud plant species, as well as six quantitative and\ud semi-quantitative floral characters that determine visitor\ud restriction, attraction and reward. Using nonmetric multidimensional scaling analysis, we show that hummingbirdpollinated plants in the West Indies separate in floral phenotypic space into two gradients—one associated with the abiotic environment and another with hummingbird\ud size. Plants pollinated by large, long-billed hummingbirds\ud had flowers with long corolla tube, large amounts of nectar\ud and showy orange-red colouration. These attracted few or\ud no insect species, whereas plants pollinated by small, shortbilled hummingbirds were frequently pollinated by insects,\ud particularly lepidopterans. The separation of plants related\ud to environmental factors showed that species in the wet and\ud cold highlands produced large amounts of dilute nectar,\ud possessed no or a weak odour, and were associated with\ud few insects, particularly few hymenopterans, compared to\ud plants in the dry and warm lowlands. The most specialised\ud hummingbird-pollinated plants are found in the West\ud Indian highlands where they are pollinated by mainly large,\ud long-billed hummingbirds. At the other extreme, highly\ud generalised plants growing in the dry and warm lowlands\ud are pollinated by small, short-billed hummingbirds and\ud numerous insect species. This illustrates that, even within\ud the hummingbird-pollinated flora, pollination syndrome\ud and the degree of specialisation may vary tremendously\ud depending on pollinator morphology and environmen

Topics: QK926, QK830, QL696, QK900
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Year: 2009
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Provided by: NECTAR
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