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image of Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

The flowers of the Mediterranean genus Ophrys imitate important specific sexual releasing factors of aculeate hymenopteran females. They attract hymenopteran males who attempt to copulate with the labellum searching for females. During this “pseudocopulation,” the insects perform pollination. As this relation is highly specific, the pollinators serve as prepollinating isolation factors. This is illustrated by many examples. We consider it evident that specific pollinators have a strong selective effect on Ophrys flowers. By comparing the characters of the Ophrys flowers and of their pollinators, we try to bring an indirect proof of this hypothesis1. As a pollinator usually acts as a prepollinating isolation mechanism, speciation in Ophrys is always a consequence of a change in pollinator. We discuss some ideas about how speciation in Ophrys might have occurred and how the attraction and pollination modality of pseudocopulation developed during evolution.

Affiliations: 1: Institut für Biologie I (Zoologie), Albert-Ludwigs-Universität


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