Floral symmetry and its role in plant-pollinator systems

Martin Giurfa, Amots Dafni, Paul R. Neal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Floral symmetry has a relevant status in the study of both pollination biology and animal behavior. In this work, a brief review and classification of symmetry types in flowers is provided as a basis for understanding the role of floral symmetry in pollination phenomena. We focus on insects as a fundamental group of pollinators, and we discuss symmetry from the perspective of insect perception. We conclude that symmetry is a specific cue with a signal value that is perceived by insect pollinators. A simple nervous system, such as that of honeybees, is capable of an extremely flexible and adaptive processing of symmetry. Performances consistent with categorization and concept building may be observed, provided that appropriate learning paradigms are employed. Perfectly symmetrical flowers might signal a high quality and/or quantity of nectar or pollen to pollinators that, in turn, might exert strong selection pressure on symmetric features. However, coadaptation arguments in the strict sense are not adequate because it is impossible to determine whether the insect's capacity to perceive symmetry is younger or older than is the origin of flower symmetry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S41-S50
JournalInternational Journal of Plant Sciences
Issue number6 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 1999


  • Flowers
  • Insect
  • Perception
  • Pollination
  • Symmetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science


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