Separating selection by diurnal and nocturnal pollinators on floral display and spur length in Gymnadenia conopsea

Ecology. 2012 Aug;93(8):1880-91. doi: 10.1890/11-2044.1.


Most plants attract multiple flower visitors that may vary widely in their effectiveness as pollinators. Floral evolution is expected to reflect interactions with the most important pollinators, but few studies have quantified the contribution of different pollinators to current selection on floral traits. To compare selection mediated by diurnal and nocturnal pollinators on floral display and spur length in the rewarding orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, we manipulated the environment by conducting supplemental hand-pollinations and selective pollinator exclusions in two populations in central Norway. In both populations, the exclusion of diurnal pollinators significantly reduced seed production compared to open pollination, whereas the exclusion of nocturnal pollinators did not. There was significant selection on traits expected to influence pollinator attraction and pollination efficiency in both the diurnal and nocturnal pollination treatment. The relative strength of selection among plants exposed to diurnal and nocturnal visitors varied among traits and populations, but the direction of selection was consistent. The results suggest that diurnal pollinators are more important than nocturnal pollinators for seed production in the study populations, but that both categories contribute to selection on floral morphology. The study illustrates how experimental manipulations can link specific categories of pollinators to observed selection on floral traits, and thus improve our understanding of how species interactions shape patterns of selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Flowers / anatomy & histology*
  • Flowers / physiology
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Norway
  • Orchidaceae / anatomy & histology*
  • Orchidaceae / physiology*
  • Pollination / physiology*