Phylogenetic and ecological correlates of pollen morphological diversity in a Neotropical rainforest

Luke Mander, Caroline Parins-Fukuchi, Christopher W. Dick, Surangi W. Punyasena, Carlos Jaramillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Morphology varies enormously across clades, and the morphology of a trait may reflect ecological function or the retention of ancestral features. We examine the tension between ecological and phylogenetic correlates of morphological diversity through a case study of pollen grains produced by angiosperms in Barro Colorado Island, Panama (BCI). Using a molecular phylogeny of 730 taxa, we demonstrate a statistically significant association between morphological and genetic distance for these plants. However, the relationship is non-linear, and while close relatives share more morphological features than distant relatives, above a genetic distance of ~ 0.7 increasingly distant relatives are not more divergent in phenotype. The pollen grains of biotically pollinated and abiotically pollinated plants overlap in morphological space, but certain pollen morphotypes and individual morphological traits are unique to these pollination ecologies. Our data show that the pollen grains of biotically pollinated plants are significantly more morphologically diverse than those of abiotically pollinated plants. Abstract in Spanish is available with online material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-85
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • disparity
  • morphospace
  • phylogeny
  • pollination
  • tropical rainforests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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