The floral network -- what determines who pollinates whom

overall were the combination model and one of the neutral models. The authors argue that the neutral model, despite its appealing simplicity, can be discounted because it requires key assumptions regarding species abundances and random interaction that conflict with empirical observations of real communities. In contrast, the model combining barriers and complementary traits matches well with observed plantpollinator interactions. Barriers alone would mean that pollinators with the longest proboscis would be supreme generalists, able to feed on any flower, causing perfect network nestedness; while complementarity alone would mean that specialist pollinators do not interact primarily with generalist plants, causing unrealistically low network nestedness. Instead, the authors suggest, a combination of barriers and complementary traits accounts for the pattern of specialists and generalists seen in real pollination networks.

The superiority of the combination model also has implications for understanding floral evolution. A common principle has been that plants coevolve with their most-efficient pollinator to strengthen the complementarity of their matching adaptations. Barriers, however, while reducing exploitation by inefficient pollinators, may also interfere with pollination by efficient ones. Nonetheless, the results of the present study indicate that barriers are likely to play an important role in pollinator networks, suggesting that coevolution with the most-efficient pollinator is not the sole factor governing floral evolution.


Contact: Natalie Bouaravong
Public Library of Science

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