Floral colours in a world without birds and bees: The plants of Macquarie Island

M. Shrestha, K. Lunau, A. Dorin, B. Schulze, M. Bischoff, M. Burd, A. G Dyer

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We studied biotically pollinated angiosperms on Macquarie Island, a remote site in the Southern Ocean with a predominately or exclusively dipteran pollinator fauna, in an effort to understand how flower colour affects community assembly. We compared a distinctive group of cream-green Macquarie Island flowers to the flora of likely source pools of immigrants and to a continental flora from a high latitude in the northern hemisphere. We used both dipteran and hymenopteran colour models and phylogenetically informed analyses to explore the chromatic component of community assembly. The species with cream-green flowers are very restricted in colour space models of both fly vision and bee vision and represent a distinct group that plays a very minor role in other communities. It is unlikely that such a community could form through random immigration from continental source pools. Our findings suggest that fly pollination has imposed a strong ecological filter on Macquarie Island, favouring floral colours that are rare in continental floras. This is one of the strongest demonstrations that plant-pollinator interactions play an important role in plant community assembly. Future work exploring colour choices by dipteran flower visitors would be valuable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)842-850
Number of pages9
JournalPlant Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Chromatic signal
  • Floral colour
  • Fly pollination
  • Hoverfly (Eristalis)
  • Sub-Antarctic island

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