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Hovering sunbirds in the Old World: occasional behaviour or evolutionary trend

Janeček, Štěpán, Patáčová, Eliška, Bartoš, Michael, Padyšáková, Eliška, Spitzer, Lukáš, Tropek, Robert
Oikos 2011 v.120 no.2 pp. 178-183
nectar, Nicotiana glauca, Impatiens, selfing, flowers, flight, hummingbirds, invasive species, pollination, Cameroon
The nectarivory of sunbirds in the Old World and hummingbirds in the New World evolved independently. While both groups are specialised in their feeding apparatuses, hummingbirds are moreover famous for their adaptations to sustained hovering flight. Recently, an example of a pollination system of the invasive plant Nicotiana glauca has been used to show that less adapted sunbirds also are frequently able to hover. Nevertheless, the question has remained why plants adapted to bird hovering pollination do not occur outside the New World. In this paper we show that the long-peduncle Cameroonian Impatiens sakeriana is not capable of autonomous selfing and can be pollinated only by two often hovering sunbirds, the Cameroon sunbird Cyanomitra oritis and the northern double-collared sunbird Cinnyris reichenowi. Our study revealed that this plant is highly specialised for pollination by C. oritis. Cinnyris reichenowi hovers less frequently and often thieves nectar by piercing the flower spur when perching. This study shows that pollination systems occurring in the Old World follow similar evolutionary trends as systems including hovering hummingbirds in the New World.