Evol Ecol Res 11: 921-934 (2009)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Ecological conditions promoting plant specialization on a seed-eating pollinator differ from those stabilizing the interaction

Sébastien Ibanez and Laurence Després

Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine and Station Alpine Joseph Fourier, Université J. Fourier, Grenoble, France

Correspondence: S. Ibanez, Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine (CNRS UMR 5553) and Station Alpine Joseph Fourier (UMS UJF-CNRS 2925), Université J. Fourier, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble, France.
e-mail: sebastien.ibanez@ujf-grenoble.fr


Question: What are the ecological conditions that promote plant specialization on a seed-eating pollinator when less costly alternative pollinators are present?

Mathematical method: An adaptive dynamics model including the ecological dynamics of a plant–seed-eating pollinator mutualistic system.

Key assumptions: Plants are initially pollinated by specialist seed-eating pollinators and by generalist co-pollinators. Plant specialization (floral morphology continuously ranging from closed to open) and seed-eating pollinator morphological preference co-evolve, while co-pollinators always prefer open flowers. When seed-eating pollinators and co-pollinators have similar preferences, seed-eating pollinators are less effective. The functional relationship linking plants and seed-eating pollinators involves pollination efficiency, oviposition rate, the range of floral morphologies an insect is able to deal with (its degree of specialization), and the pollination and oviposition handling times.

Conclusions: Specialization evolves only if pollinators interfere, and it is favoured when co-pollinators’ efficiency is low, when seed-eating pollinators’ oviposition rate is low, and when the range of floral morphology they deal with is greater for oviposition than for nectar- or mate-searching visits. Moreover, although high pollination efficiency of seed-eating pollinators is a key factor in the persistence of the specific mutualism nowadays, the first steps of the evolution of specialization require an intermediate pollination efficiency of seed-eating pollinators.

Keywords: adaptive dynamics, co-pollination efficiency, evolution, floral morphology, Trollius europaeusChiastocheta mutualism.

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