Pterandra pyroidea: A case of pollination shift within Neotropical Malpighiaceae

Simone C. Cappellari, Muhammad A. Haleem, Anita J. Marsaioli, Rosana Tidon, Beryl B. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background and Aims: Most Neotropical species of Malpighiaceae produce floral fatty oils in calyx glands to attract pollinating oil-collecting bees, which depend on this resource for reproduction. This specialized type of pollination system tends to be lost in members of the family that occur outside the geographic distribution (e.g. Africa) of Neotropical oil-collecting bees. This study focused on the pollination ecology, chemical ecology and reproductive biology of an oil flower species, Pterandra pyroidea (Malpighiaceae) from the Brazilian Cerrado. Populations of this species consist of plants with oil-secreting (glandular) flowers, plants with non-oil-secreting flowers (eglandular) or a mix of both plant types. This study specifically aims to clarify the role of eglandular morphs in this species. Methods Data on pollinators were recorded by in situ observations. Breeding system experiments were conducted by isolating inflorescences and by enzymatic reactions. Floral resources, pollen and floral oils offered by this species were analysed by staining and a combination of various spectroscopic methods. Key Results Eglandular flowers of P. pyroidea do not act as mimics of their oil-producing conspecifics to attract pollinators. Instead, both oil-producing and oil-free flowers depend on pollen-collecting bees for reproduction, and their main pollinators are bumble-bees. Floral oils produced by glandular flowers are less complex than those described in closely related genera. Conclusions Eglandular flowers represent a shift in the pollination system in which oil is being lost and pollen is becoming the main reward of P. pyroidea flowers. Pollination shifts of this kind have hitherto not been demonstrated empirically within Neotropical Malpighiaceae and this species exhibits an unusual transition from a specialized towards a generalized pollination system in an area considered the hotspot of oil-collecting bee diversity in the Neotropics. Transitions of this type provide an opportunity to study ongoing evolutionary mechanisms that promote the persistence of species previously involved in specialized mutualistic relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1323-1334
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerrado
  • Malpighiaceae
  • Pterandra pyroidea
  • elaiophores
  • fatty acids
  • floral oils
  • floral rewards
  • gas chromatography
  • oil flowers
  • oil-collecting bees
  • pollination shift
  • pollination syndromes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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