Speciation in sexually deceptive orchids

Due to the highly specialized floral odour, an Ophrys species can normally attract only one pollinator species. The selective attraction of pollinators serves as the main reproductive isolation barrier between species. However, this mechanism does not provide a complete isolation, as hybrids between Ophrys species can be often found. This type of reproductive isolation barrier may also play an important role in the evolution and radiation of Ophrys. If the floral scent of an odour mutant or a hybrid plant by chance resembles the female sex‐pheromone of a different pollinator species, it is at the same time reproductively isolated from its parental species. Subsequently, a new species could evolve. This would be a rare example of sympatric speciation. We are investigating the role of the floral odour in processes of speciation and radiation in Ophrys


Coworkers: Monica Cuervo

Collaborations: Wittko Francke (University of Hamburg), Hannes Paulus and Demetra Rakosy (University of Vienna), Salvatore Cozzolino (University of Naples)