Convergent evolution: Floral guides, stingless bee nest entrances, and insectivorous pitchers

Jacobus C. Biesmeijer, Martin Giurfa, Dirk Koedam, Simon G. Potts, Daniel M. Joel, Amots Dafni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several recent hypotheses, including sensory drive and sensory exploitation, suggest that receiver biases may drive selection of biological signals in the context of sexual selection. Here we suggest that a similar mechanism may have led to convergence of patterns in flowers, stingless bee nest entrances, and pitchers of insectivorous plants. A survey of these non-related visual stimuli shows that they share features such as stripes, dark centre, and peripheral dots. Next, we experimentally show that in stingless bees the close-up approach to a flower is guided by dark centre preference. Moreover, in the approach towards their nest entrance, they have a spontaneous preference for entrance patterns containing a dark centre and disrupted ornamentation. Together with existing empirical evidence on the honeybee's and other insects' orientation to flowers, this suggests that the signal receivers of the natural patterns we examined, mainly Hymenoptera, have spontaneous preferences for radiating stripes, dark centres, and peripheral dots. These receiver biases may have evolved in other behavioural contexts in the ancestors of Hymenoptera, but our findings suggest that they have triggered the convergent evolution of visual stimuli in floral guides, stingless bee nest entrances, and insectivorous pitchers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)444-450
Number of pages7
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements We thank V. L. Imperatriz-Fonseca (USP, São Paulo) and Arbofilia (El Sur de Turrubares, Costa Rica) for their hospitality and for allowing us to work with their bees and T. Seeley, D. Tarpy, P. Slater, J. Tomkins and three anonymous referees for critical comments on the manuscript. The work was supported by WOTRO, the Netherlands Foundation for the advancement of Science (JCB) and FAPESP (DK).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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