The colorful language of Australian flowers


The enormous increase in phylogenetic information in recent years has allowed many old questions to be reexamined from a macroevolutionary perspective. We have recently considered evolutionary convergence in floral colors within pollination syndromes, using bird-pollinated species in Australia. We combined quantitative measurements of floral reflectance spectra, models of avian color vision, and a phylogenetic tree of 234 Australian species to show that bird-pollinated flowers as a group do not have colors that are significantly different from the colors of insect-pollinated flowers. However, about half the bird-pollinated flowers have convergently evolved a narrow range of colors with dominant long-wavelength reflection far more often than would be expected by chance. These convergent colors would be seen as distinctly different from other floral colors in our sample when viewed by honeyeaters (family Meliphagidae), birds with a phylogenetically ancestral type of color vision and the dominant avian pollinators in Australia. Our analysis shows how qualitative ideas in natural history, like the concept of pollination syndromes, can be given more precise definition and rigorous statistical testing that takes into account phylogenetic information.

DOI: 10.4161/cib.28940

Extracted Key Phrases

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Burd2014TheCL, title={The colorful language of Australian flowers}, author={Martin Burd and C. Tristan Stayton and Mani Shrestha and Adrian G Dyer}, booktitle={Communicative & integrative biology}, year={2014} }