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Pollinator shifts drive petal epidermal evolution on the Macaronesian Islands bird-flowered species

AuthorsOjeda, Dario I.; Valido, Alfredo ; Fernández de Castro, Alejandro G.; Ortega-Olivencia, Ana; Fuertes Aguilar, Javier ; Carvalho, José A.; Santos-Guerra, Arnoldo
Keywordsopportunistic passerine birds
conical cells
pollinator shift
mixed pollination
Issue Date1-Apr-2016
PublisherRoyal Society (Great Britain)
CitationBiology Letters 12(4): (2016)
AbstractPollinator shifts are considered to drive floral trait evolution, yet little is still known about the modifications of petal epidermal surface at a biogeographic region scale. Here we investigated how independent shifts from insects to passerine birds in the Macaronesian Islands consistently modified this floral trait (i.e. absence of papillate cells). Using current phylogenies and extensive evidence from field observations, we selected a total of 81 plant species and subspecies for petal microscopy and comparative analysis, including 19 of the 23 insular species pollinated by opportunistic passerine birds (Macaronesian bird-flowered element). Species relying on passerine birds as the most effective pollinators (bird-pollinated) independently evolved at least five times and in all instances associated with a loss of papillate cells, whereas species with a mixed pollination system (birds plus insects and/or other vertebrates) evolved at least five times in Macaronesia and papillate cells were lost in only 25% of these transitions. Our findings suggest that petal micromorphology is a labile trait during pollinator shifts and that papillate cells tend to be absent on those species where pollinators have limited mechanical interaction with flowers, including opportunistic passerine birds that forage by hovering or from the ground.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2016.0022
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