PhD Candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University

Does pollinator-mediated selection vary across plant communities?

Does pollinator-mediated selection vary across plant communities?

Interest in the co-evolution of plants and their pollinators dates to Darwin's work on orchids and their moth pollinators.

Currently, pollinators are widely recognized as one important agent of selection on floral traits. Most studies have considered pairwise interactions between one plant and one pollinator, but most plants share pollinators with other co-occurring plant species. Because biotic pollination is critical to reproduction in most angiosperms, incorporating community context into the study of plant-pollinator interactions will improve our understanding of how and why flowering plants co-occur.

We wanted to know: do the density of a patch and the species richness of a community affect patterns of selection on floral traits? And do co-flowering congeners experience similar patterns of selection where they co-occur?

To address this question, in the summer of 2015 we measured floral traits and fitness of the four Kern County Clarkia species (C. cylindrica, C. speciosa, C. unguiculata, C. xantiana) in 18 communities where 1, 2, 3, or all 4 species are present.

In the summer of 2017, we conducted an additional experiment to test for pollinator-mediated selection on the floral traits of two species of Clarkia (C. cylindrica, C. xantiana) in 16 communities where 1, 2, or all 4 species are present.

Check out photos from these field seasons below!