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New Phytol. 2006;169(4):667-80.

Pollination and seed predation by moths on Silene and allied Caryophyllaceae: evaluating a model system to study the evolution of mutualisms.

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Department of Biology, Willamette University, Salem, OR 97301, USA.


Nursery pollinators, and the plants they use as hosts for offspring development, function as exemplary models of coevolutionary mutualism. The two pre-eminent examples--fig wasps and yucca moths--show little variation in the interaction: the primary pollinator is an obligate mutualist. By contrast, nursery pollination of certain Caryophyllaceae, including Silene spp., by two nocturnal moth genera, Hadena and Perizoma, ranges from antagonistic to potentially mutualistic, offering an opportunity to test hypotheses about the factors that promote or discourage the evolution of mutualism. Here, we review nursery pollination and host-plant interactions in over 30 caryophyllaceous plants, based on published studies and a survey of researchers investigating pollination, seed predation, and moth morphology and behavior. We detected little direct evidence of mutualism in these moth-plant interactions, but found traits and patterns in both that are nonetheless consistent with the evolution of mutualism and merit further attention.

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