Evolution

Learning abilities in pollinators have important implications for the evolution of their flowers. Although a simple model of floral evolution could involve pollinator behaviors based solely on innate responses, a range of floral features, including complex morphologies, color changes, temporally variable patterns of anthesis and nectar availability, and spatial arrangement of flowers along a trapline, may be better explained by the pollinators' ability to learn. Below, I briefly discuss two such floral features - complex morphologies and color changes - responses to which have been shown to involve learning by non-hymenopteran pollinators.

Complex morphologies

Plants take advantage of pollinator motor learning ability by producing flowers with complex morphologies, in which access to nectar or pollen rewards is not immediately obvious. Once a pollinator arrives at a flower, initial motor patterns are likely to be innate, and may be released by particular colors or patterns (Lunau 1988; Lunau & Maier 1995). Beyond the innate responses, however, learning is also involved. For bumble bees,

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