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Ecology. 2007 Feb;88(2):434-42.

Do rewardless orchids show a positive relationship between phenotypic diversity and reproductive success?

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Exeter, Hatherly Laboratories, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK.

Erratum in

  • Ecology. 2008 Jun;89(6):1775.


Among rewardless orchids, pollinator sampling behavior has been suggested to drive a positive relationship between population phenotypic variability and absolute reproductive success, and hence population fitness. We tested this hypothesis by constructing experimental arrays using the rewardless orchid Dactylorhiza sambucina, which is dimorphic for corolla color. We found no evidence that polymorphic arrays had higher mean reproductive success than monomorphic arrays for pollinia removal, pollen deposition, or fruit set. For pollinia removal, monomorphic yellow arrays had significantly greater reproductive success, and monomorphic red the least. A tendency for yellow arrays to have higher pollen deposition was also found. We argue that differential population fitness was most likely to reflect differential numbers of pollinators attracted to arrays, through preferential long-distance attraction to arrays with yellow inflorescences. Correlative studies of absolute reproductive success in 52 populations of D. sambucina supported our experimental results. To our knowledge this is the first study to suggest that attraction of a greater number of pollinators to rewardless orchids may be of greater functional importance to population fitness, and thus ecology and conservation, than are the behavioral sequences of individual pollinators.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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