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Biol Lett. 2006 Jun 22;2(2):165-8.

Mauritian coloured nectar no longer a mystery: a visual signal for lizard pollinators.

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University of Zurich, Institute of Environmental Sciences, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


Most floral nectars are clear as water, and the enigmatic coloured nectar in three endemic plant species in Mauritius has puzzled scientists studying it. One hypothesis about the possible ecological function of coloured nectar is that it serves as a visual signal for pollinators. Recent studies have shown that at least two of the three Mauritian plant species with coloured nectar are visited and pollinated by endemic Phelsuma geckos. We here provide experimental evidence for the visual signal hypothesis by showing that Phelsuma ornata geckos prefer coloured over clear nectar in artificial flowers. In flowering plants, coloured nectar could additionally function as an honest signal that allows pollinators to assert the presence and judge the size of a reward prior to flower visitation, and to adjust their behaviour accordingly, leading to increased pollinator efficiency. Our study provides a first step in understanding this rare and intriguing floral trait.

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