Reproductive isolation in alpine gingers: How do coexisting Roscoea (R. purpurea and R. tumjensis) conserve species integrity?

Babu Ram Paudel, Martin Burd, Mani Shrestha, Adrian G. Dyer, Qing Jun Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Multiple barriers may contribute to reproductive isolation between closely related species. Understanding the relative strength of these barriers can illuminate the ecological factors that currently maintain species integrity and how these factors originally promoted speciation. Two Himalayan alpine gingers, Roscoea purpurea and R. tumjensis, occur sympatrically in central Nepal and have such similar morphology that it is not clear whether or how they maintain a distinct identity. Our quantitative measurements of the components of reproductive isolation show that they are, in fact, completely isolated by a combination of phenological displacement of flowering, earlier for R. tumjensis and later for R. purpurea, and complete fidelity of visitation by different pollinator species, bumblebees for R. tumjensis and a long-tongued fly for R. purpurea. Furthermore, the nectar of R. tumjensis flowers is available to the shorter tongued bumblebees while R. purpurea nectar is less accessible, requiring deep probing from long-tongued flies. Although flowering phenology is a strong current barrier that seemingly obviates any need for pollinator discrimination, this current pattern need not reflect selective forces occurring at the initial divergence of R. tumjensis. There has been considerable pollinator switching during the radiation of the Himalayan Roscoea, and the association of flowering time with type of pollinator in these sympatric species may have originated among the earliest or latest flowering individuals or populations of an ancestor to exploit either bumblebee activity early in the breeding season or long-tongued fly abundance later in the season. These two sympatric Roscoea species add to accumulating evidence of the primacy of prezygotic pollination traits in speciation among angiosperms even in the absence of postzygotic incompatibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1840-1850
Number of pages11
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • Bumblebee
  • floral color
  • long-tongued fly
  • pollination
  • speciation
  • sympatry

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