|Author: ||Martha R. Weiss|
Flowers in more than 50 diverse angiosperm families undergo dramatic localized color changes, in which a specific part of the flower changes color while the rest of the flower is maintained in its original condition.
Flowers in the pre-change condition provide rewards for their pollinators and are sexually viable, unlike post-change flowers.
A wide variety of insect pollinators (in Diptera, Hymenoptera, and Lepidoptera) actively discriminate between the floral phases.
To investigate the ecological role of this phenomenon, I have carried out a series of choice tests, discrimination trials, and learning trials, using Lantana camara flowers, and 2 nymphalid butterflies, Agraulis vanillae and Junonia coenia. My results support the hypothesis that maintenance of these changed flowers beyond the end of their reproductive lives increases the plant's attractiveness to potential pollinators from a distance, while the color change allows them to discriminate between rewarding and non-rewarding flowers at close range.
Both plant and pollinator benefit from such a system: the plant receives efficient pollination service, and the pollinator is accurately directed to rewarding flowers.
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