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Floral adaptation to local pollinator guilds in a terrestrial orchid

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2014
Author Sun Mimi, Gross Karin, Schiestl Florian,
Project Pollinator-driven evolution in different pollination systems
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Annals of Botany
Volume (Issue) 113(2)
Page(s) 289 - 300
Title of proceedings Annals of Botany
DOI doi:10.1093/aob/mct219


Background and Aims Studies of local floral adaptation in response to geographically divergent pollinators are essential for understanding floral evolution. This study investigated local pollinator adaptation and variation in floral traits in the rewarding orchid Gymnadenia odoratissima, which spans a large altitudinal gradient and thus may depend on different pollinator guilds along this gradient. † Methods Pollinator communities were assessed and reciprocal transfer experiments were performed between lowland and mountain populations. Differences in floral traits were characterized by measuring floral morphology traits, scent composition, colour and nectar sugar content in lowland and mountain populations. Key Results The composition of pollinator communities differed considerably between lowland and mountain populations; flies were only found as pollinators in mountain populations. The reciprocal transfer experiments showed that when lowland plants were transferred to mountain habitats, their reproductive success did not change significantly. However, when mountain plantsweremoved to the lowlands, their reproductive success decreased significantly. Transfers between populations of the same altitude did not lead to significant changes in reproductive success, disproving the potential for population-specific adaptations. Flower size of lowland plants was greater than for mountain flowers. Lowland plants also had significantly higher relative amounts of aromatic floral volatiles, while the mountain plants had higher relative amounts of other floral volatiles. The floral colour of mountain flowers was significantly lighter compared with the lowland flowers. †Conclusions Local pollinator adaptation through pollinator attractionwas shown in the mountain populations, possibly due to adaptation to pollinating flies. The mountain plants were also observed to receive pollination from a greater diversity of pollinators than the lowland plants. The different floral phenotypes of the altitudinal regions are likely to be the consequence of adaptations to local pollinator guilds.