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Floral traits and pollination ecology of European Arum hybrids


Hybridisation is common in plants and can affect the genetic diversity and ecology of sympatric parental populations. Hybrids may resemble the parental species in their ecology, leading to competition and/or gene introgression; alternatively, they may diverge from the parental phenotypes, possibly leading to the colonisation of new ecological niches and to speciation. Here, we describe inflorescence morphology, ploidy levels, pollinator attractive scents, and pollinator guilds of natural hybrids of Arum italicum and A. maculatum (Araceae) from a site with sympatric parental populations in southern France to determine how these traits affect the hybrid pollination ecology. Hybrids were characterised by inflorescences with a size and a number of flowers more similar to A. italicum than to A. maculatum. In most cases, hybrid stamens were purple, as in A. maculatum, and spadix appendices yellow, as in A. italicum. Hybrid floral scent was closer to that of A. italicum, but shared some compounds with A. maculatum and comprised unique compounds. Also, the pollinator guild of the hybrids was similar to that of A. italicum. Nevertheless, the hybrids attracted a high proportion of individuals of the main pollinator of A. maculatum. We discuss the effects of hybridisation in sympatric parental zones in which hybrids exhibit low levels of reproductive success, the establishment of reproductive barriers between parental species, the role of the composition of floral attractive scents in the differential attraction of pollinators and in the competition between hybrids and their parental species, and the potential of hybridisation to give rise to new independent lineages.

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Volatile organic compounds


Non-metric multidimensional scaling


Non-parametric multivariate analysis of variance


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Bruno Buatois is thanked for helping with the GC–MS analyses and providing laboratory facilities; David Prehsler for cultivation of Arum tubers in the greenhouses of the Botanical Garden of the University of Vienna. We also acknowledge the support of the owner of the study site in Bagnère-de-Bigorre, France, for allowing us to regularly observe and collect Arum inflorescences. The manuscript was improved as a result of discussion with Yannick Staedler and proof-read by Ursula Schachner. This work received funding from the CNRS-GDREC (French National Research Group in Chemical Ecology) and FWF (Austrian Science Fund; number P25077-B16). The experiments conducted comply with the current laws of the country (France) in which the experiments were performed.

Author contribution statement

MC and MG conceived and designed the experiments. MC and SL performed the field and laboratory work; BK and HWS performed the chromosome analyses; JMB identified the chemical compounds. MC analysed the data. MC, MG, JS and HWS wrote the manuscript; other authors provided editorial advice.

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Correspondence to Marion Chartier.

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Communicated by Anne Worley.

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Chartier, M., Liagre, S., Weiss-Schneeweiss, H. et al. Floral traits and pollination ecology of European Arum hybrids. Oecologia 180, 439–451 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-015-3498-9

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  • Floral odour
  • Morphospace
  • Psychodidae
  • Sapromyiophily
  • Wallace effect