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Plant–pollinator interactions and floral convergence in two species of Heliconia from the Caribbean Islands

Abstract

Variation in interspecific interactions across geographic space is a potential driver of diversification and local adaptation. This study quantitatively examined variation in floral phenotypes and pollinator service of Heliconia bihai and H. caribaea across three Antillean islands. The prediction was that floral characters would correspond to the major pollinators of these species on each island. Analysis of floral phenotypes revealed convergence among species and populations of Heliconia from the Greater Antilles. All populations of H. caribaea were similar, characterized by long nectar chambers and short corolla tubes. In contrast, H. bihai populations were strongly divergent: on Dominica, H. bihai had flowers with short nectar chambers and long corollas, whereas on Hispaniola, H. bihai flowers resembled those of H. caribaea with longer nectar chambers and shorter corolla tubes. Morphological variation in floral traits corresponded with geographic differences or similarities in the major pollinators on each island. The Hispaniolan mango, Anthracothorax dominicus, is the principal pollinator of both H. bihai and H. caribaea on Hispaniola; thus, the similarity of floral phenotypes between Heliconia species suggests parallel selective regimes imposed by the principal pollinator. Likewise, divergence between H. bihai populations from Dominica and Hispaniola corresponded with differences in the pollinators visiting this species on the two islands. The study highlights the putative importance of pollinator-mediated selection as driving floral convergence and the evolution of locally-adapted plant variants across a geographic mosaic of pollinator species.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank T. Clase, A. Cherenfant, J. Fumero, N. Martén, B. Peguero, R. Perez, R. Rodríguez, N. Ruiz and M. Vindas for assistance conducting field work. The authors thank P. Acevedo for discussion of ideas and providing useful botanical information, and I. Lopez for generating the distribution map. V. Gowda, S. Johnson, and three anonymous reviewers provided insightful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. Logistic support for fieldwork was provided by Jardín Botánico Nacional de Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic, and El Verde Field Station in Puerto Rico. Research permits were awarded by Depto de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales in Puerto Rico, and by the Secretaría de Estado de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales in the Dominican Republic, and experiments complied with the current laws of those countries. Funding was provided by Smithsonian Institution grant to SMR, NSF Grant DEB 0614218 to E. Temeles and W.J. Kress.

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Correspondence to Silvana Martén-Rodríguez.

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Communicated by Steven Johnson.

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Martén-Rodríguez, S., John Kress, W., Temeles, E.J. et al. Plant–pollinator interactions and floral convergence in two species of Heliconia from the Caribbean Islands. Oecologia 167, 1075–1083 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-011-2043-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-011-2043-8

Keywords

  • Convergent evolution
  • Heliconia
  • Hummingbird
  • Islands
  • Pollination