Plant-hummingbird interactions in the West Indies: floral specialisation gradients associated with environment and hummingbird size

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  • Dalsgaard B

    Final published version, 267 KB, PDF document

  • Dalsgaard, Bo
  • Ana M Martín González
  • Jens Olesen
  • Jeff Ollerton
  • Allan Timmermann
  • Laila Hanghøj Andersen
  • Adrianne G Tossas
Floral phenotype and pollination system of a plant may be influenced by the abiotic environment and the local pollinator assemblage. This was investigated in seven plant-hummingbird assemblages on the West Indian islands of Grenada, Dominica and Puerto Rico. We report all hummingbird and insect pollinators of 49 hummingbird-pollinated plant species, as well as six quantitative and semi-quantitative floral characters that determine visitor restriction, attraction and reward. Using nonmetric multidimensional scaling analysis, we show that hummingbird-pollinated plants in the West Indies separate in floral phenotypic space into two gradients-one associated with the abiotic environment and another with hummingbird size. Plants pollinated by large, long-billed hummingbirds had flowers with long corolla tube, large amounts of nectar and showy orange-red colouration. These attracted few or no insect species, whereas plants pollinated by small, short-billed hummingbirds were frequently pollinated by insects, particularly lepidopterans. The separation of plants related to environmental factors showed that species in the wet and cold highlands produced large amounts of dilute nectar, possessed no or a weak odour, and were associated with few insects, particularly few hymenopterans, compared to plants in the dry and warm lowlands. The most specialised hummingbird-pollinated plants are found in the West Indian highlands where they are pollinated by mainly large, long-billed hummingbirds. At the other extreme, highly generalised plants growing in the dry and warm lowlands are pollinated by small, short-billed hummingbirds and numerous insect species. This illustrates that, even within the hummingbird-pollinated flora, pollination syndrome and the degree of specialisation may vary tremendously depending on pollinator morphology and environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)757-66
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

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