Flower colour variation across a hybrid zone in Antirrhinum as perceived by bumblebee pollinators
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To assess if pollinators’ behaviour could explain the maintenance of hybrid zones between different flower colour morphs, we analyzed flower colour variation in an Antirrhinum hybrid zone using spectrometry and a model of bee perception. Some colours generated by hybridization were not observed in any Antirrhinum species and even appeared to be rare among angiosperms. Variation in flower colours within the hybrid zone was continuous; the most similar colours were predicted not to be discriminated from one another in natural foraging situations. However, when compared at a scale corresponding to bees’ foraging range, some flower colours could be discriminated from all colours displayed by neighbouring plants. This could affect pollinator behaviour and explain lower visitation rates within the centre of the hybrid zone. Behavioural studies involving bumblebees and plant mixtures of parental and hybrid flower colours carefully characterized with appropriate visual models will be necessary to test this hypothesis.