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Trends Ecol Evol. 2005 Sep;20(9):487-94. Epub 2005 Jun 23.

Orchid diversity: an evolutionary consequence of deception?

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Dipartimento delle Scienze Biologiche, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Via Foria 223, I-80139 Naples, Italy.


The Orchidaceae are one of the most species-rich plant families and their floral diversity and pollination biology have long intrigued evolutionary biologists. About one-third of the estimated 18,500 species are thought to be pollinated by deceit. To date, the focus has been on how such pollination evolved, how the different types of deception work, and how it is maintained, but little progress has been made in understanding its evolutionary consequences. To address this issue, we discuss here how deception affects orchid mating systems, the evolution of reproductive isolation, speciation processes and neutral genetic divergence among species. We argue that pollination by deceit is one of the keys to orchid floral and species diversity. A better understanding of its evolutionary consequences could help evolutionary biologists to unravel the reasons for the evolutionary success of orchids.

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