Seminar: Prof Jeff Ollerton, University of Northampton

1 February

12.30 - 13.30

Plant diversification and animal pollination: insights from the family Apocynaceae

Pollination by insects, birds, mammals and other animals is a dominant, fundamental ecological interaction that has had profound consequences for plant evolution.  However the role of pollinators in determining rates and patterns of plant diversification has been studied in detail in relatively few angiosperm families.  A newly assembled database of pollinators of the Apocynaceae, supported by a molecular phylogeny of the major clades, has been used to explore phylogenetic and biogeographic patterns of pollinator exploitation in this large family. 

The findings from this study challenge some long-held assumptions about convergent evolution, the role of rewards such as nectar, and the notion that some specialised pollination systems are evolutionary “dead ends”.  It also highlights the function of novel floral features in determining pollinator type and behaviour, such as the fused gynostegium and pollinia found in the subfamily Asclepiadoideae.  In summary, the Apocynaceae is emerging as an important model family for understanding the ecology and evolution of plant-pollinator interactions.