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Am Nat. 2006 Jan;167(1):67-80. Epub 2005 Nov 7.

The role of local species abundance in the evolution of pollinator attraction in flowering plants.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, 6270 University Boulevard, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z4, Canada. sargent@zoology.ubc.ca

Abstract

We present a population genetic model that incorporates aspects of pollinator efficiency and abundance to examine the effect of the local plant community on the evolution of floral trait specialization. Our model predicts that plant species evolve to be pollinator specialists on the most effective and common pollinators when their abundance is low relative to other plant species in the community (i.e., conspecific pollen is relatively rare) and evolve to be pollinator generalists when they are numerically dominant (i.e., conspecific pollen is abundant). Strong flower constancy also favors generalist floral traits. Furthermore, generalist species are predicted to differentiate when there is a concave trade-off in attracting pollinator species with different floral trait preferences. This result implies that populations that evolve toward a generalist strategy may be more prone to speciation. Ours is the first theoretical model to include local species abundance explicitly, despite the fact that it has been previously identified as an important factor in the evolution of plant specialization. Our results add a layer of ecological complexity to previous models of floral evolution and therefore have the potential to improve our power to predict circumstances under which specialized and generalized plant-pollinator interactions should evolve.

PMID:
16475100
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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