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Adaptation in a Plant-Hummingbird Association

Science  25 Apr 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5619, pp. 630-633
DOI: 10.1126/science.1080003

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Abstract

Sexual dimorphism in bill morphology and body size of the Caribbean purple-throated carib hummingbird is associated with a reversal in floral dimorphism of its Heliconia food plants. This hummingbird is the sole pollinator of H. caribaea and H. bihai, with flowers of the former corresponding to the short, straight bills of males, the larger sex, and flowers of the latter corresponding to the long, curved bills of females. On St. Lucia, H. bihai compensates for the rarity of H. caribaea by evolving a second color morph with flowers that match the bills of males, whereas on Dominica, H. caribaea evolves a second color morph with flowers that match the bills of females. The nectar rewards of all Heliconia morphs are consistent with each sex's choice of the morph that corresponds to its bill morphology and energy requirements, supporting the hypothesis that feeding preferences have driven their coadaptation.

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