Using geometric morphometrics to determine the “fittest” floral shape: A case study in large-flowered, buzz-pollinated Meriania hernandoi

Agnes S. Dellinger, Daniela Hanusch, Mario Oswald, Diana Fernández-Fernández, Jürg Schönenberger

Abstract Premise Floral shape (relative arrangement and position of floral organs) is critical in mediating fit with pollinators and maximizing conspecific pollen transfer particularly in functionally specialized systems. To date, however, few studies have attempted to quantify flowers as the inherently three-dimensional (3D) structures they are and determine the effect of intraspecific shape variation on pollen transfer. We here addressed this research gap using a functionally specialized system, buzz pollination, in which bees extract pollen through vibrations, as a model. Our study species, Meriania hernandoi (Melastomataceae), undergoes a floral shape change from pseudocampanulate corollas with more actinomorphically arranged stamens (first day) to open corollas with a more zygomorphic androecium (second day) over anthesis, providing a natural experiment to test how variation in floral shape affects pollination performance. Methods In one population of M. hernandoi, we bagged 51 pre-anthetic flowers and exposed half of them to bee pollinators when they were in either stage of their shape transition. We then collected flowers, obtained 3D flower models through x-ray computed tomography for 3D geometric morphometric analyses, and counted the pollen grains remaining per stamen (male pollination performance) and stigmatic pollen loads (female pollination performance). Results Male pollination performance was significantly higher in open flowers with zygomorphic androecia than in pseudo-campanulate flowers. Female pollination performance did not differ among floral shapes. Conclusions These results suggest that there is an ?optimal? shape for male pollination performance, while the movement of bees around the flower when buzzing the spread-out stamens results in sufficient pollen deposition regardless of floral shape.

Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research, Functional and Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Evolutionary Biology
External organisation(s)
National Institute of Biodiversity
American journal of botany
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106008 Botany, 106012 Evolutionary research, 106042 Systematic botany
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Genetics, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics, Plant Science
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