A striking characteristic of the Western North American flora is the repeated evolution of hummingbird pollination from insect‐pollinated ancestors. This pattern has received extensive attention as an opportunity to study repeated trait evolution as well as potential constraints on evolutionary reversibility, with little attention focused on the impact of these transitions on species diversification rates. Yet traits conferring adaptation to divergent pollinators potentially impact speciation and extinction rates, because pollinators facilitate plant reproduction and specify mating patterns between flowering plants. Here, we examine macroevolutionary processes affecting floral pollination syndrome diversity in the largest North American genus of flowering plants, Penstemon. Within Penstemon, transitions from ancestral bee‐adapted flowers to hummingbird‐adapted flowers have frequently occurred, although hummingbird‐adapted species are rare overall within the genus. We inferred macroevolutionary transition and state‐dependent diversification rates and found that transitions from ancestral bee‐adapted flowers to hummingbird‐adapted flowers are associated with reduced net diversification rate, a finding based on an estimated 17 origins of hummingbird pollination in our sample. Although this finding is congruent with hypotheses that hummingbird adaptation in North American Flora is associated with reduced species diversification rates, it contrasts with studies of neotropical plant families where hummingbird pollination has been associated with increased species diversification. We further used the estimated macroevolutionary rates to predict the expected pattern of floral diversity within Penstemon over time, assuming stable diversification and transition rates. Under these assumptions, we find that hummingbird‐adapted species are expected to remain rare due to their reduced diversification rates. In fact, current floral diversity in the sampled Penstemon lineage, where less than one‐fifth of species are hummingbird adapted, is consistent with predicted levels of diversity under stable macroevolutionary rates.
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Wessinger, C.A., Rausher, M.D. and Hileman, L.C. (2019), Adaptation to hummingbird pollination is associated with reduced diversification in Penstemon. Evolution Letters, 3: 521-533. https://doi.org/10.1002/evl3.130