Association between community assemblage of flower colours and pollinator fauna

Flower colour plays a major role in the attraction and decision-making of pollinators. Different functional groups of pollinators tend to prefer different flower colours, and therefore may lead to different flower colour compositions among different communities depending on the visual system of the dominant pollinators. However, few studies have investigated the linkage between pollinator fauna and flower colour composition in natural communities, a theme Ishii et al. explore.

The authors measured flower spectral reflectance of 106 Japanese and 96 New Zealand alpine plants in the wavelength range 300–700 nm. They also investigated the composition of pollinator fauna in the communities and the types of pollinators for each plant species.

A pink flower
Image: Canva.

Based on bee and fly colour vision models, as well as a principal components analysis, considering phylogenetic non-independence between plant species, flower colours appeared to vary according to pollinator type rather than geographical region. Consequently, flower colour composition differed between the regions, reflecting the bee/fly mixed pollinator fauna of Japan and the fly-dominant pollinator fauna of New Zealand. According to the bee colour vision model, the majority of the colours of hymenopteran-pollinated flowers appeared to be discriminated by bees. In contrast, many of the colours of dipteran-pollinated flowers would not be discriminated by bees and flies.

The results suggest that the differences in flower colour composition between Japanese and New Zealand alpine communities are due to differences in the pollinator fauna in these communities rather than differences in abiotic factors between the geographical regions and the phylogenetic origin of the communities.

Further reading

Ishii, H. S., Kubota, M. X., Tsujimoto, S. G., & Kudo, G. (2018). Association between community assemblage of flower colours and pollinator fauna: a comparison between Japanese and New Zealand alpine plant communities. Annals of Botany. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcy188