Oecologia

, Volume 166, Issue 3, pp 671–680 | Cite as

Temporal stability of pollinator preference in an alpine plant community and its implications for the evolution of floral traits

Plant-Animal interactions - Original Paper

Abstract

A traditional view of diverse floral traits is that they reflect differences in foraging preferences of pollinators. The role of pollinators in the evolution of floral traits has been questioned recently by broad community surveys, especially studies concerning variation in pollinator assemblages and visitation frequency, which suggest a diminished role of pollinators in floral evolution. Here, we investigate the relationships between six categories of floral traits of 29 species and 10 pollinator functional groups in an alpine meadow in the Hengduan Mountains of China, over three consecutive years. Simpson’s diversity index was used to estimate the level of pollinator generalization of each plant species by considering both pollinator groups and their relative visitation frequencies. Multivariate analyses indicated that eight of the ten pollinator groups showed constant preferences for at least two floral traits, leading to a relatively stable level of ecological generalization for most floral traits (two out of three categories), despite the fact that the level of generalization of the entire community varied across years. Shape preferences of butterflies, honeybees and beeflies varied such that open flowers exhibited a lower level of ecological generalization in 2007 than closed flowers, in contrast with the other 2 years. These results suggest that temporally stabilized preferences of diverse pollinators may contribute to the evolution of specialized versus generalized floral traits; however, their role may be moderated by variation in community structure, including both the composition and abundance of plants and pollinators.

Keywords

Floral traits Temporal variation Ecological generalization level Generalization and specialization Visitation frequency 

Supplementary material

442_2011_1910_MOESM1_ESM.doc (294 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 294 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Life SciencesWuhan UniversityWuhanChina

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