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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X


GOMEZ, JOSÉ M.. Generalizations in the interactions between plants and pollinators. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2002, vol.75, n.1, pp.105-115. ISSN 0716-078X.

A controversy exists about the importance of generalization versus specialization in pollination systems. Whereas the evolutionary and ecological theory speculates that the plant-pollinator systems should be highly specialized, many evolutionary ecologists now acknowledge that generalization is frequent in natural systems. There is still no consensus about which ecological factors can promote this counter-intuitive and paradoxical result. I propose that generalization in plant-pollination systems can arise by several non-exclusive factors. One kind of factors are related to the ability of pollinators of acting as true selective agents. Despite that many studies have shown that pollinators can provoke phenotypic selection on floral traits, only occasionally it has been shown that this selection actually produces any response to selection. Two main reasons can explain why pollinators cannot induce adaptations in many plants: (1a) a significant spatial and temporal variability in pollinator abundance and identity highly reduces the possibilities of congruent selection on floral traits; (1b) the occurrence of extrinsic factors acting during another stages of the plant reproductive and recruitment processes can also decrease the actual effect that pollinators has on fitness. A second group of factors are those related with the fact that, to specialization occurs, it is necessary that two different pollinators can constitute as completely separated selective agents, by differing in their per-visit efficiencies and/or floral trait preferences. By contrast, similarity in efficiency and preference will constrain specialization even although pollinators act as selective pressures, since plant will have not any criteria to benefit a given pollinator species with respect to the other

Keywords : generalization; specialization; pollination biology; evolutionary ecology; plant-pollinator interactions.

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