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Opposing patterns of altitude-driven pollinator turnover in the tropical and temperate Americas

Authors
  • Dellinger, Agnes S.1, 2
  • Hamilton, Ashley M.3
  • Wessinger, Carolyn A.3
  • Smith, Stacey2
  • 1 University of Vienna, Austria
  • 2 University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
  • 3 University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC USA
Type
Published Article
Journal
The American Naturalist
Publisher
The University of Chicago Press
Publication Date
Aug 01, 2023
Volume
202
Issue
2
Pages
152–165
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1086/725017
PMID: 37531276
PMCID: PMC7614872
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Article
License
Unknown

Abstract

Abiotic factors (e.g., temperature, precipitation) vary markedly along elevational gradients, and differentially affect major groups of pollinators. Ectothermic bees, for example, are impeded in visiting flowers by cold and rainy conditions common at high elevations, while endothermic hummingbirds may continue foraging under such conditions. Despite the possibly far-reaching effects of the abiotic environment on plant-pollinator interactions, we know little about how these factors play out at broad ecogeographic scales. We address this knowledge gap by investigating how pollination systems vary across elevations in 26 plant clades from the Americas. Specifically, we explore Cruden’s 1972 hypothesis that the harsh montane environment drives a turnover from insect to vertebrate pollination at higher elevations. We compared the elevational distribution and bioclimatic attributes for a total of 2232 flowering plants and found that Cruden’s hypothesis only holds in the tropics. Above 30° N and below 30°S, plants pollinated by vertebrates (mostly hummingbirds) tend to occur at lower elevations than those pollinated by insects. We hypothesize that this latitudinal transition is due to the distribution of moist, forested habitats favored by vertebrate pollinators, which are common at high elevations in the tropics but not in the temperate Americas.

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