Episodes of rapid speciation provide unique insights into evolutionary processes underlying species radiations and patterns of biodiversity. Here we investigated the radiation of sexually deceptive bee orchids (Ophrys).
Based on a time-calibrated phylogeny and by means of ancestral character reconstruction and divergence time estimation, we estimated the tempo and mode of this radiation within a state-dependent evolutionary framework.
It appears that, in the Pleistocene, the evolution of Ophrys was marked by episodes of rapid diversification coinciding with shifts to different pollinator types: from wasps to Eucera bees to Andrena and other bees. An abrupt increase in net diversification rate was detected in three clades. Among these, two phylogenetically distant lineages switched from Eucera to Andrena and other bees in a parallel fashion and at about the same time in their evolutionary history.
Lack of early radiation associated with the evolution of the key innovation of sexual deception suggests that Ophrys diversification was mainly driven by subsequent ecological opportunities provided by the exploitation of novel pollinator groups, encompassing many bee species slightly differing in their sex pheromone communication systems, and by spatiotemporal fluctuations in the pollinator mosaic.