Floral adaptations of two lilies: implications for the evolution and pollination ecology of huge trumpet-shaped flowers

Chang-Qiu Liu, Yun-Dong Gao, Yang Niu, Ying-Ze Xiong, Hang Sun
American Journal of Botany 2019 April 25

PREMISE: Evolutionary transitions among floral morphologies, many of which provide evidence for adaptation to novel pollinators, are common. Some trumpet-shaped flowers are among the largest flowers in angiosperms, occurring in different lineages. Our goal was to investigate the role of pollinators in the evolution of these flowers using Lilium.

METHODS: We investigated floral traits and pollinators of L. primulinum var. ochraceum and L. brownii var. viridulum and reviewed reports of visitors to huge trumpet-shaped flowers. Using a published phylogeny of Lilium, we reconstructed ancestral floral morphological states in Lilium to elucidate the origins of trumpet-shaped lilies.

RESULTS: Both lilies are largely self-incompatible and show floral syndromes indicative of hawkmoth pollination. The short trumpet-shaped lily can be pollinated by short-tongued (<40 mm) but not long-tongued hawkmoths (>65 mm), while the huge trumpet-shaped lily can be pollinated by both. A literature review including 22 species of trumpet-shaped flowers suggests that their pollinator guilds commonly include both short- and long-tongued moths. A phylogenetic reconstruction indicates that trumpet-shaped lilies possibly have multiple origins from tepal-reflexed ancestors, at least six of which have evolved huge flowers (>50 mm).

CONCLUSIONS: Adaptation to short-tongued hawkmoths may have initiated the evolution of trumpet-shaped lilies. Huge trumpet-shaped lilies may have evolved as a response to selection by long-tongued hawkmoths, without excluding the short-tongued ones. This evolutionary pathway leads to a functionally more generalized pollination system instead of an increasingly specialized one and is not necessarily associated with pollinator shifts.


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