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Evolution. 2003 Dec;57(12):2742-52.

Pollen transfer by hummingbirds and bumblebees, and the divergence of pollination modes in Penstemon.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G5, Canada.


We compared pollen removal and deposition by hummingbirds and bumblebees visiting bird-syndrome Penstemon barbatus and bee-syndrome P. strictus flowers. One model for evolutionary shifts from bee pollination to bird pollination has assumed that, mostly due to grooming, pollen on bee bodies quickly becomes unavailable for transfer to stigmas, whereas pollen on hummingbirds has greater carryover. Comparing bumblebees and hummingbirds seeking nectar in P. strictus, we confirmed that bees had a steeper pollen carryover curve than birds but, surprisingly, bees and birds removed similar amounts of pollen and had similar per-visit pollen transfer efficiencies. Comparing P. barbatus and P. strictus visited by hummingbirds, the bird-syndrome flowers had more pollen removed, more pollen deposited, and a higher transfer efficiency than the bee-syndrome flowers. In addition, P. barbatus flowers have evolved such that their anthers and stigmas would not easily come into contact with bumblebees if they were to forage on them. We discuss the role that differences in pollination efficiency between bees and hummingbirds may have played in the repeated evolution of hummingbird pollination in Penstemon.

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