Papers in the Biological Sciences
Date of this Version
Nachev et al., Science 2017 355, aah4219 (6 January 2017)
Plants pollinated by hummingbirds or bats produce dilute nectars even though these animals prefer more concentrated sugar solutions. This mismatch is an unsolved evolutionary paradox. Here we show that lower quality, or more dilute, nectars evolve when the strength of preferring larger quantities or higher qualities of nectar diminishes as magnitudes of the physical stimuli increase. In a virtual evolution experiment conducted in the tropical rainforest, bats visited computer-automated flowers with simulated genomes that evolved relatively dilute nectars. Simulations replicated this evolution only when value functions, which relate the physical stimuli to subjective sensations, were nonlinear. Selection also depended on the supply/demand ratio; bats selected for more dilute nectar when competition for food was higher.We predict such a pattern to generally occur when decision-makers consider multiple value dimensions simultaneously, and increases of psychological value are not fully proportional to increases in physical magnitude.
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