Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 293, Issue 1–4, pp 91–99 | Cite as

Are deception-pollinated species more variable than those offering a reward?

  • James D. Ackerman
  • Ana A. Cuevas
  • David Hof
Original Article


In most pollination systems, animals transfer pollen among plants of a given species. Pollinator visitations do not come without cost, so plants usually offer a reward. However, the flowers of some plant species, mostly orchids, lack rewards and deceive animals into visiting their flowers. Deceptive species are thought to have high levels of variation in traits associated with advertisement and pollinator attraction, which have been attributed to genetic drift, or disruptive selection due to pollinator behavior. Rewarding species are assumed to have less variation due to stabilizing selection. We compared variability in floral morphology and fragrance composition between deceptive and rewarding species. Because both suites of traits are often linked with floral advertisement and pollinator attraction, we expected variation to be greater in species with deceptive pollination systems than in those offering rewards. We obtained floral morphology metrics for 20 deceptive species and 41 rewarding species native or naturalized in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Ecuador. Floral fragrances were sampled from eight deceptive species and four rewarding species. We found that the amplitude of variation in floral morphology and fragrance composition covaries significantly. Comparison of coefficients of variation for morphology indicated that, overall, deceptive species show significantly higher variation than rewarding species, and this pattern was also found among just orchids or just nonorchids. There were no statistical differences in morphological variation between orchids and nonorchids within a functional pollination group. Fragrance variation, measured by Jaccard distance, tended to be greater for deceptive species than for rewarding species. Although overlap in measures of variation occurs between the two groups, the data support the hypothesis that populations of deception-pollinated species are more variable than rewarding species in traits associated with pollinator attraction.


Orchidaceae Floral fragrances Floral traits Flower advertisement Morphological variation Pollinator attraction Pollination mechanisms 



We thank Jess Zimmerman for his advice concerning Jaccard distances, and Osvaldo Rosario for his guidance in interpreting GC/MS data. We also thank R. Tremblay for fieldwork assistance, M. Aponte, Y. Marrero, and I. Rivera for help with laboratory work, and R. Almodovar, R. Blanco, and R. Morales for technical assistance with GC/MS. This work was supported by National Science Foundation grants to J.D.A. (HRD-9353549, DEB-9505459, HRD-9628475) and the NSF-REU program in tropical ecology at the El Verde Field Station of the Institute for Tropical Ecosystems Ecology, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras (NSF-DBI 9912316 to Eliva J. Meléndez-Ackerman).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology, Faculty of Natural SciencesUniversity of Puerto RicoSan JuanUSA
  2. 2.Biology Department, 221 Morrill Science CenterUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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