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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVE NUTRITION FOR HONEY BEE COLONIES TO STIMULATE POPULATION GROWTH, INCREASE QUEEN QUALITY, AND REDUCE THE IMPACT OF VARROA MITES

Location: Honey Bee Research

Title: A Global Test of the Pollination Syndrome Hypothesis

Authors
item Ollerton, Jeff -
item Alarcon Jr, Ruben
item Waser, Nickolas -
item Price, Mary -
item Watts, Stella -
item Cranmer, Louise -
item Hingston, Andrew -
item Peter, Craig -
item Rotenberry, John -

Submitted to: Annals Of Botany
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 7, 2009
Publication Date: June 9, 2009
Citation: Ollerton, J., Alarcon Jr, R.N., Waser, N.M., Price, M.V., Watts, S., Cranmer, L., Hingston, A., Peter, C.I., Rotenberry, J. 2009. A Global Test of the Pollination Syndrome Hypothesis. Annals Of Botany. 103(9):1471-1480.

Interpretive Summary: Pollination syndromes are suites of traits that have been used to predict the specific pollinators of flowers, however this hypothesis has rarely been tested. Flowers in six communities from three continents were scored for floral traits used in the pollination syndromes. Analyses of the flowers showed that almost no plant species fall within the hypothetical pollination syndromes. Furthermore, in approximately two-thirds of plant species, the most common pollinator could not be successfully predicted by assuming that each plant species belongs to the syndrome it was most similar to. The pollination syndrome hypothesis does not successfully describe the diversity of floral forms or predict the pollinators of most plant species. Caution is suggested when using pollination syndromes for organizing floral diversity, or for inferring pollinators. A fresh look at how traits of flowers and polliantors relate to visitation and pollen transfer is recommended.

Technical Abstract: Pollination syndromes are suites of phenotypic traits hypothesized to reflect convergent adaptations of flowers for pollination by specific types of animals. They were dirst developed in the 1870s and honed during the mid 20th Century. In spite of this long history and their central role in organizing research on plant-pollinator interactions, the pollination syndromes have rarely been subjected to test. The syndromes were tested here by asking whether they successfully capture patterns of covariance of floral traits and predict the most common pollinators of flowers. Flowers in six communities from three continents were scored for expression of floral traits used in published descriptions of the pollination syndromes, and simultaneously the pollinators of as many species as possible were characterized. Ordination of flowers in a multivariate phenotype space defined by the syndromes showed that almost no plant species fall within the discrete syndrome clusters. Furthermore, in approximately two-thirds of plant species, the most common pollinator could not be successfully predicted by assuming that each plant species belongs to the syndrome closest to it in phenotype space. The pollination syndrome hypothesis as usually articulated does not successfully describe the diversity of floral phenotypes or predict the pollinators of most plant species. Caution is suggested when using pollination syndromes for organizing floral diversity, or for inferring agents of floral adaptation. A fresh look at how traits of flowers and pollinators relate to visitation and pollen transfer is recommended, in order to determine whether axes can be identified that describe floral functional diversity more successfully than the traditional syndromes.

Last Modified: 4/24/2014
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