Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 171, Issue 2, pp 171-181

First online:

The evolutionary adaptation of flower colours and the insect pollinators' colour vision

  • Lars ChittkaAffiliated withInstitut für Neurobiologie, Freie Universität Berlin
  • , Randolf MenzelAffiliated withInstitut für Neurobiologie, Freie Universität Berlin

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The evolutionary tuning between floral colouration and the colour vision of flower-visiting Hymenoptera is quantified by evaluating the informational transfer from the signalling flower to the perceiving pollinator. The analysis of 180 spectral reflection spectra of angiosperm blossoms reveals that sharp steps occur precisely at those wavelengths where the pollinators are most sensitive to spectral differences. Straight-forward model calculations determine the optimal set of 3 spectral photoreceptor types for discrimination of floral colour signals on the basis of perceptual difference values. The results show good agreement with the sets of photoreceptors characterized electrophysiologically in 40 species of Hymenoptera.

Key words

Colour vision Flower colours Evolution Hymenoptera Pollination ecology