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Zygomorphic flowers have fewer potential pollinator species


Yoder, Jeremy B.; Gomez, Giancarlo; Carlson, Colin J. (2020), Zygomorphic flowers have fewer potential pollinator species, Dryad, Dataset,


Botanists have long identified bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic) flowers with more specialized pollination interactions than radially symmetrical (actinomorphic) flowers. Zygomorphic flowers facilitate more precise contact with pollinators, guide pollinator behaviour and exclude less effective pollinators. However, whether zygomorphic flowers are actually visited by a smaller subset of available pollinator species has not been broadly evaluated. We compiled 53 609 floral visitation records in 159 communities and classified the plants' floral symmetry. Globally and within individual communities, plants with zygomorphic flowers are indeed visited by fewer species. At the same time, zygomorphic flowers share a somewhat larger proportion of their visitor species with other co-occurring plants and have particularly high sharing with co-occurring plants that also have zygomorphic flowers. Visitation sub-networks for zygomorphic species also show differences that may arise from reduced visitor diversity, including greater connectance, greater web asymmetry and lower coextinction robustness of both plants and visitor species—but these changes do not necessarily translate to whole plant-visitor communities. These results provide context for widely documented associations between zygomorphy and diversification and imply that species with zygomorphic flowers may face a greater risk of extinction due to pollinator loss.


Floral visitation data are derived from records archived in the Web of Life and Interaction Web DataBase repositories; original source datasets and the repositories where each were obtained are given in `data/references_all.csv`. Time-calibrated phylogeny derived from the "ALLMB" supertree created by Smith and Brown (2018). Details of compilation and processing are given in the paper.

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California State University, Northridge,

Georgetown Environment Initiative,