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Data from: Geographic variation of reproductive traits and competition for pollinators in a bird-pollinated plant

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Theron, Genevieve L.; de waal, Caroli; Barrett, Spencer C.H.; Anderson, Bruce (2019). Data from: Geographic variation of reproductive traits and competition for pollinators in a bird-pollinated plant [Dataset]. Dryad.


Geographic variation in the reproductive traits of animal-pollinated plants can be shaped by spatially variable selection imposed by differences in the local pollination environment. We investigated this in Babiana ringens (Iridaceae), an enigmatic species from the Western Cape region of South Africa. B. ringens has evolved a specialized perch facilitating cross-pollination by sunbirds and displays striking geographic variation in perch size and floral traits. Here, we investigate whether this variation can be explained by geographic differences in the pollinator communities. We measured floral and inflorescence traits, abiotic variables (N, P, C and rainfall) and made observations of sunbirds in populations spanning the range of B. ringens. In each population, we recorded sunbird species identity and measured visitation rates, inter-floral pollen transfer and whether the seed set of flowers was pollen limited. To evaluate whether competition from co-occurring sunbird-pollinated species might reduce visitation, we quantified nectar rewards in B. ringens and of other co-flowering bird-pollinated species in local communities in which populations occurred. Variation in abiotic variables was not associated with geographical variation of traits in B. ringens. Malachite sunbirds were the dominant visitor (97% of visits) and populations with larger-sized traits exhibited higher visitation rates, more between-flower pollen transfer and set more seed. No sunbirds were observed in four populations, all with smaller-sized traits. Sunbird visitation to B. ringens was not associated with local sunbird activity in communities, but sunbird visitation was negatively associated with the amount of B. ringens sugar relative to the availability of alternative nectar sources. Our study provides evidence that B. ringens populations with larger floral traits are visited more frequently by sunbirds and we propose that visitation rates to B. ringens may be influenced, in part, by competition with other sunbird pollinated species.

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South Africa