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Pollinators Discriminate among Floral Heights of a Sexually Deceptive Orchid: Implications for Selection

Rod Peakall and Steven N. Handel
Evolution
Vol. 47, No. 6 (Dec., 1993), pp. 1681-1687
DOI: 10.2307/2410212
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2410212
Page Count: 7
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Pollinators Discriminate among Floral Heights of a Sexually Deceptive Orchid: Implications for Selection
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Abstract

Pollinators have influenced the evolution of many morphological floral traits, although few studies have shown that pollinators have influenced plant height. Chiloglottis trilabra is one of many Australian orchids that deceive and attract male pollinators by mimicking the sex pheromones and morphology of females insects. Orchids in this genus have unusually short flowers whose peduncle elongates dramatically after pollination to approximately twice the original height. In a series of choice experiments in the field, we show that pollinators of C. trilabra strongly discriminate among floral heights, preferring flowers presented at 15 cm-20 cm over flowers presented at lower and higher positions (ranging from 2 cm-100 cm). Our results suggested pollinators have the potential to mediate stabilizing selection for floral height when pollination is limiting. However, the natural height range of the orchid (mean = 10 cm, range 5 cm-15 cm) was lower than the experimentally determined optimum for visitation frequency. This difference may indicate that pollinator-mediated selection does not occur in this species, perhaps because seed set is not sufficiently limited. Alternatively, other life-history factors may counteract pollinator-mediated selection, yielding an evolutionary compromise in height.

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