The predictive power of pollination syndromes: Passerine pollination in heterantherous Meriania macrophylla (Benth.) Triana (Melastomataceae)

José Miguel Valverde-Espinoza, Eduardo Chacon-Madrigal, Olman Alvarado-Rodríguez, Agnes S. Dellinger

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


Abstract The cloud forest species Meriania macrophylla (Benth.) Triana has pseudocampanulate flowers with bulbous stamen appendages, typical for the passerine pollination syndrome found in the Melastomataceae tribe Merianieae. The species is further characterized by strong stamen dimorphism (heteranthery), a condition otherwise associated with pollen-rewarding bee-pollinated species (both in Melastomataceae and beyond). In passerine-pollinated Merianieae, however, flowers usually only show weak stamen dimorphism. Here, we conducted field and laboratory investigations to determine the pollinators of M. macrophylla and assess the potential role of strong heteranthery in this species. Our field observations in Costa Rica confirmed syndrome predictions and indeed proved pollination by passerine birds in M. macrophylla. The large bulbous set of stamens functions as a food-body reward to the pollinating birds, and as trigger for pollen release (bellows mechanism) as typical for the passerine syndrome in Merianieae. In contrast to other passerine-pollinated Merianieae, the second set of stamens has seemingly lost its rewarding and pollination function, however. Our results demonstrate the utility of the pollination syndrome concept even in light of potentially misleading traits such as strong heteranthery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13668-13677
Number of pages10
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 106008 Botany
  • 106012 Evolutionary research
  • 106042 Systematic botany


  • buzz pollination
  • division-of-labor hypothesis
  • heteranthery
  • melastomataceae
  • thraupidae

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