Journal Article

Twenty-five years of progress in understanding pollination mechanisms in palms (Arecaceae)

Anders S. Barfod, Melanie Hagen and Finn Borchsenius

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 108, issue 8, pages 1503-1516
Published in print December 2011 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online August 2011 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcr192
Twenty-five years of progress in understanding pollination mechanisms in palms (Arecaceae)

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Background

With more than 90 published studies of pollination mechanisms, the palm family is one of the better studied tropical families of angiosperms. Understanding palm–pollinator interactions has implications for tropical silviculture, agroforestry and horticulture, as well as for our understanding of palm evolution and diversification. We review the rich literature on pollination mechanisms in palms that has appeared since the last review of palm pollination studies was published 25 years ago.

Scope and Conclusions

Visitors to palm inflorescences are attracted by rewards such as food, shelter and oviposition sites. The interaction between the palm and its visiting fauna represents a trade-off between the services provided by the potential pollinators and the antagonistic activities of other insect visitors. Evidence suggests that beetles constitute the most important group of pollinators in palms, followed by bees and flies. Occasional pollinators include mammals (e.g. bats and marsupials) and even crabs. Comparative studies of palm–pollinator interactions in closely related palm species document transitions in floral morphology, phenology and anatomy correlated with shifts in pollination vectors. Synecological studies show that asynchronous flowering and partitioning of pollinator guilds may be important regulators of gene flow between closely related sympatric taxa and potential drivers of speciation processes. Studies of larger plant–pollinator networks point out the importance of competition for pollinators between palms and other flowering plants and document how the insect communities in tropical forest canopies probably influence the reproductive success of palms. However, published studies have a strong geographical bias towards the South American region and a taxonomic bias towards the tribe Cocoseae. Future studies should try to correct this imbalance to provide a more representative picture of pollination mechanisms and their evolutionary implications across the entire family.

Keywords: Palm-pollinator interactions; cantharophily; mellitophily; myophily; co-evolutionary relationships; Arecaceae

Journal Article.  11197 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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