Journal Article

Pollination patterns and plant breeding systems in the Galápagos: a review

Susana Chamorro, Ruben Heleno, Jens M. Olesen, Conley K. McMullen and Anna Traveset

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 110, issue 7, pages 1489-1501
Published in print November 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online June 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Pollination patterns and plant breeding systems in the Galápagos: a review

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


Show Summary Details



Despite the importance of the Galápagos Islands for the development of central concepts in ecology and evolution, the understanding of many ecological processes in this archipelago is still very basic. One such process is pollination, which provides an important service to both plants and their pollinators. The rather modest level of knowledge on this subject has so far limited our predictive power on the consequences of the increasing threat of introduced plants and pollinators to this unique archipelago.


As a first step toward building a unified view of the state of pollination in the Galápagos, a thorough literature search was conducted on the breeding systems of the archipelago's flora and compiled all documented flower–visitor interactions. Based on 38 studies from the last 100 years, we retrieved 329 unique interactions between 123 flowering plant species (50 endemics, 39 non-endemic natives, 26 introduced and eight of unknown origin) from 41 families and 120 animal species from 13 orders. We discuss the emergent patterns and identify promising research avenues in the field.


Although breeding systems are known for <20 % of the flora, most species in our database were self-compatible. Moreover, the incidence of autogamy among endemics, non-endemic natives and alien species did not differ significantly, being high in all groups, which suggests that a poor pollinator fauna does not represent a constraint to the integration of new plant species into the native communities. Most interactions detected (approx. 90 %) come from a single island (most of them from Santa Cruz). Hymenopterans (mainly the endemic carpenter bee Xylocopa darwinii and ants), followed by lepidopterans, were the most important flower visitors. Dipterans were much more important flower visitors in the humid zone than in the dry zone. Bird and lizard pollination has been occasionally reported in the dry zone. Strong biases were detected in the sampling effort dedicated to different islands, time of day, focal plants and functional groups of visitors. Thus, the existing patterns need to be confronted with new and less biased data. The implementation of a community-level approach could greatly increase our understanding of pollination on the islands and our ability to predict the consequences of plant invasions for the natural ecosystems of the Galápagos.

Keywords: Galápagos; flower visitation; mutualistic interactions; oceanic islands; plant breeding systems; plant–animal interactions; pollination networks

Journal Article.  8622 words.  Illustrated.

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

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.