Pollinator-mediated reproductive isolation is often a principal factor in determining the rate of hybridization between plant species. Pollinator preference and constancy can reduce interspecific pollen transfer between otherwise interfertile, coflowering species. The importance of this ethological isolation can be assessed by comparing the strength of preference and constancy of pollinators in contact sites that differ in the frequency of hybrid individuals. We observed visitation by hummingbirds and hawkmoths in natural single-species patches and artificial mixed-species arrays in two Ipomopsis aggregata/I. tenuituba contact sites—one with few hybrids, and one in which hybrids are abundant. Pollinator preference and constancy were stronger at the low-frequency hybrid site, especially for hawkmoths (Hyles lineata). Hawkmoths at the low-frequency hybrid site showed significant preference and constancy for I. tenuituba, while at the high-frequency site hawkmoths visited both species equally. One hypothesis that might explain these differences in hawkmoth foraging is that warmer nights at the low-frequency hybrid site allow for nocturnal foraging where the light-colored corollas of I. tenuituba have a visibility advantage. These differences in hawkmoth behavior might in turn affect hummingbirds differently at the two sites, through changes in nectar resources, leading to greater pollinator-mediated isolation at the low-frequency hybrid site. Our results suggest that differences in pollinator behaviors between sites can have both direct and indirect effects on hybridization rates between plant species.
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Vol. 61 • No. 1