‘Anti-bee’ and ‘pro-bird’ changes during the evolution of hummingbird pollination in Penstemon flowers

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Floral phenotypes may be as much the result of selection for avoidance of some animal visitors as selection for improving the interaction with better pollinators. When specializing on hummingbird-pollination, Penstemon flowers may have evolved to improve the morphological fit between bird and flower, or to exclude less-efficient bees, or both. We hypothesized how such selection might work on four floral characters that affect the mechanics of pollen transfer: anther/stigma exsertion, presence of a lower corolla lip, width of the corolla tube, and angle of flower inclination. We surgically modified bee-pollinated P. strictus flowers changing one trait at a time to make them resemble hummingbird-pollinated P. barbatus flowers, and measured pollen transfer by bumblebees and hummingbirds. Results suggest that, apart from ‘pro-bird’ adaptations, specific ‘anti-bee’ adaptations have been important in shaping hummingbird-flowers. Moreover, some trait changes may have been selected for only if changing in concert with other traits.

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