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Patterns of floral morphology in relation to climate and floral visitors.

Abstract

Our results indicate that the four species have different levels of specialization, and that this can be explained by their climatic niche breadth. In addition, our results show that, at least for some species, floral morphology can be explained by the identity of floral visitors, with climate having only an indirect effect.

Our results demonstrate that, even in very specialized interactions, both biotic and abiotic variables can explain a substantial amount of intraspecific variation in floral morphology.

We used a combination of large-scale plant and pollinator samplings, morphological measures and climatic data. We analysed the data using spatial approaches, as well as traditional multivariate and structural equation modelling approaches.

The diversity of floral morphology among plant species has long captured the interest of biologists and led to the development of a number of explanatory theories. Floral morphology varies substantially within species, and the mechanisms maintaining this diversity are diverse. One possibility is that spatial variation in the pollinator fauna drives the evolution of spatially divergent floral ecotypes adapted to the local suite of pollinators. Another possibility is that geographic variation in the abiotic environment and local climatic conditions favours different floral morphologies in different regions. Although both possibilities have been shown to explain floral variation in some cases, they have rarely been competed against one another using data collected from large spatial scales. In this study, we assess floral variation in relation to climate and floral visitors in four oil-reward-specialized pollination interactions.

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