Fly pollination in Ceropegia (Apocynaceae: Asclepiadoideae): biogeographic and phylogenetic perspectives

Jeff Ollerton, Siro Masinde, Ulrich Meve, Mike Picker, Andrew Whittington

    Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


    BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Ceropegia (Apocynaceae subfamily Asclepiadoideae) is a large, Old World genus of >180 species, all of which possess distinctive flask-shaped flowers that temporarily trap pollinators. The taxonomic diversity of pollinators, biogeographic and phylogenetic patterns of pollinator exploitation, and the level of specificity of interactions were assessed in order to begin to understand the role of pollinators in promoting diversification within the genus.\n\nMETHODS: Flower visitor and pollinator data for approx. 60 Ceropegia taxa were analysed with reference to the main centres of diversity of the genus and to a cpDNA-nrDNA molecular phylogeny of the genus.\n\nKEY RESULTS: Ceropegia spp. interact with flower-visiting Diptera from at least 26 genera in 20 families, of which 11 genera and 11 families are pollinators. Size range of flies was 0.5-4.0 mm and approx. 94 % were females. Ceropegia from particular regions do not use specific fly genera or families, though Arabian Peninsula species are pollinated by a wider range of Diptera families than those in other regions. The basal-most clade interacts with the highest diversity of Diptera families and genera, largely due to one hyper-generalist taxon, C. aristolochioides subsp. deflersiana. Species in the more-derived clades interact with a smaller diversity of Diptera. Approximately 60 % of taxa are so far recorded as interacting with only a single genus of pollinators, the remaining 40 % being less conservative in their interactions. Ceropegia spp. can therefore be ecological specialists or generalists.\n\nCONCLUSIONS: The genus Ceropegia has largely radiated without evolutionary shifts in pollinator functional specialization, maintaining its interactions with small Diptera. Intriguing biogeographic and phylogenetic patterns may reflect processes of regional dispersal, diversification and subsequent specialization onto a narrower range of pollinators, though some of the findings may be caused by inconsistent sampling. Comparisons are made with other plant genera in the Aristolochiaceae and Araceae that have evolved flask-shaped flowers that trap female flies seeking oviposition sites.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAnnals of Botany
    PublisherOxford University Press
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Print)0305-7364
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2009

    Publication series

    NameAnnals of Botany


    • Apocynaceae
    • Asclepiadoideae
    • Brachystelma
    • Ceropegia
    • Diptera
    • Riocreuxia
    • Stapeliinae
    • flower evolution
    • generalization
    • mutualism
    • pollination
    • specialization


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