Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 341–354

Bee- to bird-pollination shifts in Penstemon: effects of floral-lip removal and corolla constriction on the preferences of free-foraging bumble bees

  • Jessica L. Zung
  • Jessica R. K. Forrest
  • Maria Clara Castellanos
  • James D. Thomson
Original Paper


Plants might be under selection for both attracting efficient pollinators and deterring wasteful visitors. Particular floral traits can act as exploitation barriers by discouraging the unwelcome visitors. In the genus Penstemon, evolutionary shifts from insect pollination to more efficient hummingbird pollination have occurred repeatedly, resulting in the convergent evolution of floral traits commonly present in hummingbird-pollinated flowers. Two of these traits, a reduced or reflexed lower petal lip and a narrow corolla, were found in a previous flight-cage study to affect floral handling time by bumble bees, therefore potentially acting as “anti-bee” traits affecting preference. To test whether these traits do reduce bumble bee visitation in natural populations, we manipulated these two traits in flowers of bee-pollinated Penstemon strictus to resemble hummingbird-adapted close relatives and measured the preferences of free-foraging bees. Constricted corollas strongly deterred bee visitation in general, and particularly reduced visits by small bumble bees, resulting in immediate specialization to larger, longer-tongued bumble bees. Bees were also deterred—albeit less strongly—by lipless flowers. However, we found no evidence that lip removal and corolla constriction interact to further affect bee preference. We conclude that narrow corolla tubes and reduced lips in hummingbird-pollinated penstemons function as exploitation barriers that reduce bee access to nectaries or increase handling time.


Bombus Floral morphology Pollination syndromes Pollinator visitation Preference 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica L. Zung
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jessica R. K. Forrest
    • 2
    • 3
  • Maria Clara Castellanos
    • 4
  • James D. Thomson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Rocky Mountain Biological LaboratoryCrested ButteUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  4. 4.Consejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasCentro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación (CSIC-UV-GV)MoncadaSpain

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