The effects of floral mimics and models on each others' fitness

Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Apr 22;273(1589):969-74. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2005.3401.


Plants that lack floral rewards may nevertheless attract pollinators by mimicking the flowers of rewarding plants. It has been suggested that both mimics and models should suffer reduced fitness when mimics are abundant relative to their models. By manipulating the relative densities of an orchid mimic Disa nivea and its rewarding model Zaluzianskya microsiphon in small experimental patches within a larger population we demonstrated that the mimic does indeed suffer reduced pollination success when locally common relative to its model. Behavioural experiments suggest that this phenomenon results from the tendency of the long-proboscid fly pollinator to avoid visits to neighbouring plants when encountering the mimic. No negative effect of the mimic on the pollination success of the model was detected. We propose that changes in pollinator flight behaviour, rather than pollinator conditioning, are likely to account for negative frequency-dependent reproductive success in deceptive orchids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Environment
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Insecta / physiology
  • Orchidaceae / anatomy & histology
  • Orchidaceae / growth & development
  • Orchidaceae / physiology*
  • Reproduction
  • Scrophulariaceae / anatomy & histology
  • Scrophulariaceae / growth & development
  • Scrophulariaceae / physiology*
  • Selection, Genetic