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How pollinators sculpt flowers

Date:
December 17, 2010
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
For the past 10 years, researchers in Spain have used complex geometric analysis to study how insect pollinators influence the evolution of flower shape.
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For the past 10 years, José María Gómez and Francisco Perfectti of the University of Granada have used complex geometric analysis to study how insect pollinators influence the evolution of flower shape.

Through a series of experiments, the researchers found that different pollinators have preferences for distinct variations in flower shape in E. mediohispanicum, a wild herb common in mountainous regions of Spain. For example, large bees preferred flowers with narrow petals; small bees had a preference for wider flowers; bee flies had a preference for rounded flowers. In the wild, flower shapes in different populations of E. mediohispanicum were found to differ significantly according to which type of pollinators were more common in the area. The result is a "geographic mosaic of selection on different [flower] shapes," the researchers write.

Why would insects prefer specific flower shapes? Gómez and Perfectti's research indicates that, in E. mediohispanicum, flower shape is an honest signal of a pollinator's reward. Flowers with shapes preferred by pollinators tend to have higher output of nectar and pollen. The research provides valuable insight into the evolution of a complex trait in flowering plants -- a topic Darwin once described as an "abominable mystery."

The research is published in the November/December issue of the International Journal of Plant Sciences.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. José María Gómez, Francisco Perfectti. Evolution of Complex Traits: The Case of Erysimum Corolla Shape. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 2010; 171 (9): 987 DOI: 10.1086/656475

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University of Chicago Press Journals. "How pollinators sculpt flowers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101110213040.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2010, December 17). How pollinators sculpt flowers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101110213040.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "How pollinators sculpt flowers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101110213040.htm (accessed September 5, 2015).

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