Plant Ecology and Evolution 154(3): 447-457, doi: 10.5091/plecevo.2021.1860
Flower morphological differentiation and plant-pollinator interactions among sympatric Aframomum species (Zingiberaceae) with floral trumpet type in the tropical African rainforest
expand article infoElie Chrisnel Nzigou Doubindou, Alexandra C. Ley§
‡ Faculté des Sciences, Université des Sciences et Techniques de Masuku, Franceville, Gabon§ Institut für Geobotanik und Botanischer Garten, University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (Saale), Germany
Open Access

Background and aims – Diversification in plant-pollinator interactions based on floral diversity is potentially a mechanism of coexistence in angiosperms. However, besides high floral diversity, some genera seemingly exhibit the same floral type in many of their species. This contradicts some expectations of competitive exclusion. We thus tested on a finer flower morphological scale whether five sympatric Aframomum species (61 spp., Zingiberaceae) in southeastern Gabon exhibiting the same general floral type (trumpet) were differentiated, and whether this resulted in different “pollinator niches”.

Material and methods – We carried out a detailed survey measuring 18 flower morphological parameters as well as nectar volume (μl) and sugar concentration (% Brix) on five flowers per species and locality. Furthermore, we observed inflorescence phenology and pollinator activity from 8 am to 4 pm for 12 to 50 hours per species and conducted pollinator exclusion experiments.

Key results – This study proves fine-scale flower morphological and resource differentiation within the trumpet floral type. Pollination-relevant parts of the flowers, however, remain constant across species. Our pollinator observations reveal the same broad bee pollinator spectrum for all observed simultaneously flowering sympatric species.

Conclusion – As we could not detect a pollinator-based differentiation in the studied sympatric Aframomum species we assume that species boundaries developed randomly by genetic drift during geographic isolation in the past. The trumpet floral type and its pollinator guild, however, were maintained due to similar selection pressures in comparable habitats during isolation and are potentially an advantage for increased pollinator attraction through co-flowering.

Aframomum, Africa, bee pollination, floral morphology, floral type, Gabon, pollinator sharing, tropics, Zingiberaceae


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