Title

Distinctive Convergence in Australian Floral Colours Seen Through the Eyes of Australian Birds

Publication Date

2014

Journal

Proceedings of the Royal Society B--Biological Sciences

Volume

281

Issue

1781

First Page

32862

Last Page

32862

Abstract

We used a colour-space model of avian vision to assess whether a distinctive bird pollination syndrome exists for floral colour among Australian angiosperms. We also used a novel phylogenetically based method to assess whether such a syndrome represents a significant degree of convergent evolution. About half of the 80 species in our sample that attract nectarivorous birds had floral colours in a small, isolated region of colour space characterized by an emphasis on long-wavelength reflection. The distinctiveness of this 'red arm' region was much greater when colours were modelled for violet-sensitive (VS) avian vision than for the ultraviolet-sensitive visual system. Honeyeaters (Meliphagidae) are the dominant avian nectarivores in Australia and have VS vision. Ancestral state reconstructions suggest that 31 lineages evolved into the red arm region, whereas simulations indicate that an average of five or six lineages and a maximum of 22 are likely to have entered in the absence of selection. Thus, significant evolutionary convergence on a distinctive floral colour syndrome for bird pollination has occurred in Australia, although only a subset of bird-pollinated taxa belongs to this syndrome. The visual system of honeyeaters has been the apparent driver of this convergence.

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