Does the morphological fit between flowers and pollinators affect pollen deposition? An experimental test in a buzz-pollinated species with anther dimorphism.
ABSTRACT: Some pollination systems, such as buzz-pollination, are associated with floral morphologies that require a close physical interaction between floral sexual organs and insect visitors. In these systems, a pollinator's size relative to the flower may be an important feature determining whether the visitor touches both male and female sexual organs and thus transfers pollen between plants efficiently. To date, few studies have addressed whether in fact the "fit" between flower and pollinator influences pollen transfer, particularly among buzz-pollinated species. Here we use Solanum rostratum, a buzz-pollinated plant with dimorphic anthers and mirror-image flowers, to investigate whether the morphological fit between the pollinator's body and floral morphology influences pollen deposition. We hypothesized that when the size of the pollinator matches the separation between the sexual organs in a flower, more pollen should be transferred to the stigma than when the visitor is either too small or too big relative to the flower. To test this hypothesis, we exposed flowers of S. rostratum with varying levels of separation between sexual organs, to bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) of different sizes. We recorded the number of visits received, pollen deposition, and fruit and seed production. We found higher pollen deposition when bees were the same size or bigger than the separation between anther and stigma within a flower. We found a similar, but not statistically significant pattern for fruit set. In contrast, seed set was more likely to occur when the size of the flower exceeded the size of the bee, suggesting that other postpollination processes may be important in translating pollen receipt to seed set. Our results suggest that the fit between flower and pollinator significantly influences pollen deposition in this buzz-pollinated species. We speculate that in buzz-pollinated species where floral morphology and pollinators interact closely, variation in the visitor's size may determine whether it acts mainly as a pollinator or as a pollen thief (i.e., removing pollen rewards but contributing little to pollen deposition and fertilization).
Project description:Approximately half of all bee species use vibrations to remove pollen from plants with diverse floral morphologies. In many buzz-pollinated flowers, these mechanical vibrations generated by bees are transmitted through floral tissues, principally pollen-containing anthers, causing pollen to be ejected from small openings (pores or slits) at the tip of the stamen. Despite the importance of substrate-borne vibrations for both bees and plants, few studies to date have characterized the transmission properties of floral vibrations. In this study, we use contactless laser vibrometry to evaluate the transmission of vibrations in the corolla and anthers of buzz-pollinated flowers of Solanum rostratum, and measure vibrations in three spatial axes. We found that floral vibrations conserve their dominant frequency (300 Hz) as they are transmitted throughout the flower. We also found that vibration amplitude at anthers and petals can be up to greater than 400% higher than input amplitude applied at the receptacle at the base of the flower, and that anthers vibrate with a higher amplitude velocity than petals. Together, these results suggest that vibrations travel differently through floral structures and across different spatial axes. As pollen release is a function of vibration amplitude, we conjecture that bees might benefit from applying vibrations in the axes associated with higher vibration amplification.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIMS:Plasticity of floral traits in response to pollination can enable plants to maximize opportunities for pollen import and export under poor pollination conditions, while minimizing costs under favourable ones. Both floral longevity and display are key traits influencing pollination. While pollination-induced flower wilting is widely documented, we lack an understanding of the multifactorial complexity of this response, including the influence of other pollination components, costs of extended longevity and subsequent impacts on floral display. METHODS:Plasticity of floral longevity was experimentally evaluated in Sabatia angularis in response to multiple pollination factors: pollen addition, removal, and source (self, single-donor outcross, multiple-donor outcross) and timing of pollination. Effects of pollen quantity were further evaluated by exploiting variation in autonomous self-pollen deposition. Delayed pollination costs were tested comparing seed set from early versus late pollinations. Finally, I compared floral display metrics (peak floral display, time to peak flower, flowering duration, mean flowering rate) between experimentally pollinated and control plants. KEY RESULTS:Floral longevity was highly plastic in response to pollen addition and its timing, and the response was dose-dependent but insensitive to pollen source. Pollen removal tended to extend floral longevity, but only insofar as it precluded pollination-induced wilting via autonomous self-pollination. Under delayed pollination, the wilting response was faster and no cost was detected. Pollination further led to reduced peak floral displays and condensed flowering periods. CONCLUSIONS:Floral longevity and display plasticity could optimize fitness in S. angularis, a species prone to pollen limitation and high inbreeding depression. Under pollinator scarcity, extended floral longevities offer greater opportunities for pollen receipt and export at no cost to seed set, reproductive assurance via autonomous self-pollination and larger, more attractive floral displays. Under high pollinator availability, shortened longevities lead to smaller displays that should lower the risk of geitonogamy.
Project description:Petunia is endemic to South America grasslands; member of this genus exhibit variation in flower colour and shape, attracting bees, hawkmoths or hummingbirds. This group of plants is thus an excellent model system for evolutionary studies of diversification associated with pollinator shifts. Our aims were to identify the legitimate pollinator of Petunia secreta, a rare and endemic species, and to assess the importance of floral traits in pollinator attraction in this Petunia species. To determine the legitimate pollinator, field observations were conducted, and all floral visitors were recorded and evaluated. We also measured the nectar volume and sugar concentration. To characterize morphological cues for pollinators, we assessed the ultraviolet (UV)-light response in detached flowers, and characterized the floral pigments and pollen volatile scents for four different Petunia species that present different pollination syndromes. Petunia secreta shares the most recent ancestor with a white hawkmoth-pollinated species, P. axillaris, but presents flavonols and anthocyanin pigments responsible for the pink corolla colour and UV-light responses that are common to bee-pollinated Petunia species. Our study showed that a solitary bee in the genus Pseudagapostemon was the most frequent pollinator of P. secreta, and these bees collect only pollen as a reward. Despite being mainly bee-pollinated, different functional groups of pollinators visit P. secreta. Nectar volume, sugar concentration per flower, morphology and components of pollen scent would appear to be attractive to several different pollinator groups. Notably, the corolla includes a narrow tube with nectar at its base that cannot be reached by Pseudagapostemon, and flowers of P. secreta appear to follow an evolutionary transition, with traits attractive to several functional groups of pollinators. Additionally, the present study shows that differences in the volatiles of pollen scent are relevant for plant mutualistic and antagonist interactions in Petunia species and that pollen scent profile plays a key role in characterizing pollination syndromes.
Project description:There is discussion over whether pollen limitation exerts selection on floral traits to increase floral display or selects for traits that promote autonomous self-fertilization. Some studies have indicated that pollen limitation does not mediate selection on traits associated with either pollinator attraction or self-fertilization. Primula tibetica is an inconspicuous cross-fertilized plant that may suffer from pollen limitation. We conducted a selection analysis on P. tibetica to investigate whether pollen limitation results in selection for an increased floral display in case the evolution of autonomous self-fertilization has been difficult for this plant. The self- and intra-morph incompatibility features, the capacity for autonomous self-fertilization, and the magnitude of pollen limitation were examined through hand-pollination experiments. In 2016, we applied selection analysis on the flowering time, corolla width, stalk height, flower tube length, and flower number in P. tibetica by tagging 76 open-pollinated plants and 37 hand-pollinated plants in the field. Our results demonstrated that P. tibetica was strictly self- and intra-morph incompatible. Moreover, the study population underwent severe pollen limitation during the 2016 flowering season. The selection gradients were found to be significantly positive for flowering time, flower number, and corolla width, and marginally significant for the stalk height. Pollinator-mediated selection was found to be significant on the flower number and corolla width, and marginally significant on stalk height. Our results indicate that the increased floral display may be a vital strategy for small distylous species that have faced difficulty in evolving autonomous self-fertilization.
Project description:<i>Gentiana leucomelaena</i> manifests dramatic flower color polymorphism, with both blue- and white-flowered individuals (pollinated by flies and bees) both within a population and on an individual plant. Previous studies of this species have shown that pollinator preference and flower temperature change as a function of flower color throughout the flowering season. However, few if any studies have explored the effects of flower color on both pollen viability (mediated by anther temperature) and pollinator preference on reproductive success (seed set) in a population or on individual plants over the course of the entire flowering season. Based on prior observations, we hypothesized that flower color affects both pollen viability (as a function of anther temperature) and pollen deposition (as a function of pollinator preference) to synergistically determine reproductive success during the peak of the flowering season. This hypothesis was tested by field observations and hand pollination experiments in a Tibetan alpine meadow. Generalized linear model and path analyses showed that pollen viability was determined by flower color, flowering season, and anther temperature. Anther temperature correlated positively with pollen viability during the peak of the early flowering season, but negatively affected pollen viability during the peak of the mid- to late flowering season. Pollen deposition was determined by flower color, flowering season (early, or mid- to late season), and pollen viability. Pollen viability and pollen deposition were affected by flower color that in turn affected seed set across the peak of the flowering season (i.e., when the greatest number of flowers were being pollinated). Hand pollination experiments showed that pollen viability and pollen deposition directly influenced seed set. These data collectively indicate that the preference of pollinators for flower color and pollen viability changed during the flowering season in a manner that optimizes successful reproduction in <i>G. leucomelaena</i>. This study is one of a few that have simultaneously considered the effects of both pollen viability and pollen deposition on reproductive success in the same population and on individual plants.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIMS:Pterostylis is an Australasian terrestrial orchid genus of more than 400 species, most of which use a motile, touch-sensitive labellum to trap dipteran pollinators. Despite studies dating back to 1872, the mechanism of pollinator attraction has remained elusive. This study tested whether the fungus gnat-pollinated Pterostylis sanguinea secures pollination by sexual deception. METHODS:The literature was used to establish criteria for confirming sexual deception as a pollination strategy. Observations and video recordings allowed quantification of each step of the pollination process. Each floral visitor was sexed and DNA barcoding was used to evaluate the degree of pollinator specificity. Following observations that attraction to the flowers is by chemical cues, experimental dissection of flowers was used to determine the source of the sexual attractant and the effect of labellum orientation on sexual attraction. Fruit set was quantified for 19 populations to test for a relationship with plant density and population size. KEY RESULTS:A single species of male gnat (Mycetophilidae) visited and pollinated the rewardless flowers. The gnats often showed probing copulatory behaviour on the labellum, leading to its triggering and the temporary entrapment of the gnat in the flower. Pollen deposition and removal occurred as the gnat escaped from the flower via the reproductive structures. The labellum was the sole source of the chemical attractant. Gnats always alighted on the labellum facing upwards, but when it was rotated 180 ° they attempted copulation less frequently. Pollination rate showed no relationship with orchid population size or plant density. CONCLUSIONS:This study confirms for the first time that highly specific pollination by fungus gnats is achieved by sexual deception in Pterostylis. It is predicted that sexual deception will be widespread in the genus, although the diversity of floral forms suggests that other mechanisms may also operate.
Project description:Plant traits related to attractiveness to pollinators (e.g. flowers and nectar) can be sensitive to abiotic or biotic conditions. Soil nutrient availability, as well as interactions among insect-pollinated plants species, can induce changes in flower and nectar production. However, further investigations are needed to determine the impact of interactions between insect-pollinated species and abiotically pollinated species on such floral traits, especially floral rewards. We carried out a pot experiment in which three insect-pollinated plant species were grown in binary mixtures with four wind-pollinated plant species, differing in their competitive ability. Along the flowering period, we measured floral traits of the insect-pollinated species involved in attractiveness to pollinators (i.e. floral display size, flower size, daily and total 1) flower production, 2) nectar volume, 3) amount of sucrose allocated to nectar). Final plant biomass was measured to quantify competitive interactions. For two out of three insect-pollinated species, we found that the presence of a wind-pollinated species can negatively impact floral traits involved in attractiveness to pollinators. This effect was stronger with wind-pollinated species that induced stronger competitive interactions. These results stress the importance of studying the whole plant community (and not just the insect-pollinated plant community) when working on plant-pollinator interactions.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIMS:Sympatric plant species that share pollinators potentially compete for pollination and risk interspecific pollen transfer, but this competition can be minimized when plant species place pollen on different areas of the pollinator's body. Multiple studies have demonstrated strong differential pollen placement by sympatric plant species under laboratory conditions; however, field evidence collected in natural settings is less common. Furthermore, it is unknown whether precise pollen placement on the pollinator's body remains constant throughout the foraging period, or if such patterns become diffused over time (e.g. due to grooming). To test the prevalence of differential pollen placement in the wild, we examined a community of five night-blooming plant species in southern Thailand that share common bat pollinators. METHODS:We mist-netted wild foraging nectar bats and collected pollen samples from four body parts: the crown of the head, face, chest and ventral side of one wing. We also noted the time of pollen collection to assess how pollinator pollen loads change throughout the foraging period. KEY RESULTS:Our findings revealed that most of our plant study species placed pollen on precise areas of the bat, consistent with experimental work, and that patterns of differential pollen placement remained constant throughout the night. CONCLUSIONS:This study demonstrates how diverse floral morphologies effectively limit interspecific pollen transfer among Old World bat-pollinated plants under natural conditions. Additionally, interspecific pollen transfer is probably minimal throughout the entire foraging period, since patterns of pollen on the bats' bodies were consistent over time.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIMS:In animal-pollinated plants, direct and indirect selection for large and small flowers in predominantly outcrossing and selfing species, respectively, is a common consequence of pollen limitation (PL). However, many hermaphroditic species show a mixed-mating system known as delayed selfing, which provides reproductive assurance (RA) only when outcrossing is not realized. Although RA is expected to reduce pollinator-mediated selection towards larger flowers, the consequences of delayed selfing for selection on flower size in mixed-mating species remain overlooked. We investigated whether RA weakens selection on flower size in Tuberaria guttata, a mixed-mating annual herb. METHODS:We related pollinator visitation rates to flower size and measured seed production in emasculated, hand cross-pollinated and intact (control) flowers in three natural populations. For each population, we estimated variation in PL and RA across individuals differing in flower size and phenotypic selection on this trait. KEY RESULTS:Pollinator visitation increased and RA decreased with flower size in all populations. Increasing RA diminished but did not fully alleviate PL, because of early-acting inbreeding depression. In the least-visited and most pollen-limited population, RA increased seed production by >200 %, intensely counteracting the strong pollinator-mediated selection for larger corollas. In the most-visited population, however, RA increased seed production by an average of only 9 %. This population exhibited the largest fraction of individuals that showed a decrease in seed production due to selfing and the weakest pollinator-mediated selection on flower size. CONCLUSIONS:The results suggest that the balance between the extent of RA and outcrossing contributes to determine flower size in mixed-mating systems. Pollinator-mediated selection favours larger flowers by increasing outcrossed seeds, but the benefits of RA greatly lessen this effect, especially under severe conditions of pollen limitation. Our findings also indicate that a mixed-mating system can represent an 'evolutionary trap' under an adequate pollinator supply.
Project description:The yield of animal-pollinated crops is threatened by bee declines, but its precise sensitivity is poorly known. We therefore determined the yield dependence of Hokkaido pumpkin in Germany on insect pollination by quantifying: (i) the relationship between pollen receipt and fruit set and (ii) the cumulative pollen deposition of each pollinator group. We found that approximately 2500 pollen grains per flower were needed to maximize fruit set. At the measured rates of flower visitation, we estimated that bumblebees (21 visits/flower lifetime, 864 grains/visit) or honeybees (123 visits, 260 grains) could individually achieve maximum crop yield, whereas halictid bees are ineffective (11 visits, 16 grains). The pollinator fauna was capable of delivering 20 times the necessary amount of pollen. We therefore estimate that pumpkin yield was not pollination-limited in our study region and that it is currently fairly resilient to single declines of honeybees or wild bumblebees.