Cognition-mediated coevolution - Context-dependent evaluations and sensitivity of pollinators to variability in nectar rewards

Sharoni Shafir, A. Bechar, E. U. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


In this paper we emphasize the role of pollinator perception and decision-making processes in mediating floral nectar distribution strategies. Since pollinator choice behavior is guided by how the pollinator perceives and evaluates floral rewards, we hypothesize that plants have evolved strategies that maximize their perceived profitability, through pollinator cognition-mediated coevolution. We focus on two classes of cognitive phenomena, context-dependent evaluations and risk-sensitivity. These phenomena are of interest to psychologists and biologists. Our paper is an attempt to show the value of cross-disciplinary exchange of theories and ideas. A review of the ecology literature suggests that pollinators evaluate variability in nectar volume in proportion to the mean, and thus choice behavior is guided by the coefficient of variation (standard deviation/mean) of the distribution. This functional relationship is predicted by Weber's law, which describes a wide range of psychophysical phenomena. Simulations show that this phenomenon also affects how pollinators perceive skewed nectar distributions. Cognition-mediated coevolution theory should be a fruitful approach to understanding the evolution of pollinator-plant interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-209
Number of pages15
JournalPlant Systematics and Evolution
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2003


  • Cognition
  • Context-dependence
  • Nectar volume
  • Pollinator
  • Risk-sensitivity
  • Skew
  • Weber's law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science


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