Context-dependent reproductive isolation mediated by floral scent and color

Mascha Bischoff, Robert A. Raguso, Andreas Jürgens, Diane R. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Reproductive isolation due to pollinator behavior is considered a key mode of speciation in flowering plants. Although floral scent is thought to mediate pollinator behavior, little is known about its effects on pollinator attraction and floral visitation in the wild. We used field experiments with wild hawkmoths and laboratory experiments with naïve hawkmoths to investigate attraction to and probing of flowers in response to indole, a volatile emitted by Ipomopsis tenuituba but not its close relative I. aggregata, both alone and in combination with floral color differences. We demonstrated that indole attracts wild hawkmoths to flowers, but has little effect on the rate at which those attracted moths probe flowers. In contrast, white flower color did not influence hawkmoth attraction in the field, but caused more attracted moths to probe flowers. Thus, the moths require both scent and high visual contrast, in that order, to feed at flowers at dusk. Their preference for indole-scented flowers is innate, but species-specific preference is mitigated by previous experience and plant spatial patterning. This context-dependent behavior helps explain why these Ipomopsis species show geographical variation in the extent of hybridization and may potentially explain formation of hybrid bridges in other systems of hawkmoth-pollinated plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Floral volatiles
  • Hawkmoth
  • Ipomopsis
  • Pollinator preference
  • Reproductive isolation
  • Speciation


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