Evolution of reproductive strategies in Caribbean Gesneria
Species of Gesneria show a great floral diversity, which makes them a perfect model to study the evolution of reproductive systems. We know that hummingbirds used to visit the ancestor of all Gesneria species. Yet, during evolution, many species have adapted to attract moths and bats. This has created a huge floral morphology, as different types of flowers attract these pollinators: hummingbirds are attracted to red tubular flowers, while flowers that attract moths and bats are generally colourless and release their nectar during the night when these animals are active. But what is fascinating in this group is that these floral changes have occurred many times during evolution.
Our research program aims to answer the following questions: (1) Why are these transitions so frequent? Could it be because few genetic changes are necessary? (2) What has been the impact of these transitions on species diversity in the group? Did it boost biodiversity? (3) Was the change of pollinators associated with periods of climate change? This is possible, as different pollinators are adapted to different ecological conditions and climate change could affect pollinator abundance and force species to evolve.