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A colorful shift that attracts hummingbirds to bees’ flowers

Cara J

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Some wildflowers might be changing their color to attract hummingbirds instead of bees, according to a recent study. As part of the study published in the American Journal of Botany, researchers used a phylogenetic tree, which shows relationships among species, to detect shifts in pollination of plants in the Penstemon genus from bees to hummingbirds. This genus includes colorful wildflowers and is the largest group of plants native to North America. “By disentangling the evolutionary relationships among species, we can get an idea of how many times natural selection has favored a strategy using hummingbirds as pollinators,” said Carolyn Wessinger, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Kansas and lead author of the study. The Penstemon eatonii plant, a wildflower in the Penstemon family, shows the typical hummingbird-adapted floral form. ©Carolyn Wessinger The researchers studied 77 of the nearly 300 species in the Penstemon group, in which more plants are typically pollinated by bees rather than hummingbirds. The difference mostly lies in color and shape: While plants pollinated by hummingbirds have bright red flowers, lots of nectar and are a narrow tube shape, plants pollinated by bees are blue or purple with wider flowers. But on close examination, the researchers [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/a-colorful-shift-that-attracts-hummingbirds-to-bees-flowers/

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