Ecological fitting is a sufficient driver of tight interactions between sunbirds and ornithophilous plants
Janecek, Stepan (2020), Ecological fitting is a sufficient driver of tight interactions between sunbirds and ornithophilous plants, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.qnk98sfbx
1. Plant-bird pollination interactions evolved independently on different continents. Specific adaptations can lead to their restriction when potential partners from distant evolutionary trajectories come into contact. Alternatively, these interactions can be enabled by convergent evolution and subsequent ecological fitting.
2. We studied the interactions between New World plants from the genus Heliconia, Asian plants of genus Etlingera and African sunbirds on a local farm in Cameroon. Heliconia evolved together with hummingbirds and Etlingera spp. with spiderhunters - an oriental subgroup of the sunbird family.
3. Sunbirds fed on all studied plants and individual plant species were visited by a different sunbird spectrum. We experimentally documented a higher number of germinated pollen grains in sunbird visited flowers of Etlingera spp. For Heliconia spp. this experiment was not successful and pollen tubes were rarely observed, even in hand pollinated flowers, where enough pollen was deposited. The analyses of contacts with plant reproductive organs nevertheless confirmed that sunbirds are good pollen vectors for both Heliconia and Etlingera species.
4. Our study demonstrated a high ecological fit between actors of distinct evolutionary history and the general validity of bird-pollination syndrome. We moreover show that trait matching and niche differentiation are important ecological processes also in semi-artificial plant-pollinator systems.
Dataset contains data about floral morphology, nectar properties and sunbird visitation frequences on three Etlingera and four Heliconia taxa. Moreover it contains data on germination of pollen tubes on these plants when sunbirds were excluded (or not) from the pollination systems.