Biotic interactions

Bruce Anderson, Nicky Allsopp, Allan G. Ellis, Steven D. Johnson, Jeremy J. Midgley, Anton Pauw and James G. Rodger

in Fynbos

Published in print September 2014 | ISBN: 9780199679584
Published online October 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780191791949 | DOI:
Biotic interactions

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The anomalously high plant diversity in the Cape has never been satisfactorily explained. However diversification in the Cape is often hypothesized to be linked to specialization on different biotic and abiotic niches. In particular, the biotic community provides an overwhelming number of niches for plants to exploit and specialize on. This chapter asks whether the high plant species diversity in the Cape can be explained by idiosyncrasies in the ways in which plants from the region interact, adapt to, or co-evolve with other organisms. The chapter reviews literature on pollination, seed dispersal, nutrient acquisition by plants (mycorrhizas, parasitic plants, insectivorous plants), and nutrient acquisition of plants (herbivory). In most respects, interactions between Cape plants and other organisms do not appear to be particularly unusual. However, pollination mutualisms do appear to be more specialized in the Cape than in other parts of the world. One end product of specialization onto a diverse array of functionally different pollinators is the presence of particularly well-developed pollination guilds (plants with convergently evolved floral morphologies adapted to the morphology or behaviour of certain pollinator groups). High levels of specialization may be due to the general long-term climatic stability of the region, allowing complex interactions to evolve and allowing time for the speciation process to be completed. Cape plants are also unusually reliant on seed dispersal vectors, e.g. ants which typically disperse seeds over very short distances. This may prevent gene flow from swamping local adaptation, thus allowing divergent selection to translate into diversification.

Keywords: herbivory; mutualism; nutrient acquisition; pollination; seed dispersal; specialization

Chapter.  16397 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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