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Curr Biol. 2012 Sep 11;22(17):1635-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.06.058. Epub 2012 Jul 26.

Hawkmoth pollinators decrease seed set of a low-nectar Petunia axillaris line through reduced probing time.

Author information

1
Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern, Altenbergrain 21, 3013 Bern, Switzerland. anna.brandenburg@unine.ch

Abstract

Although deception of floral pollinators is well known among orchids, the majority of animal-pollinated plants secure pollination by nectar rewards. The costs and benefits of nectar production remain poorly understood. Here, we developed a crossing design to introgress a low-nectar-volume locus of Petunia integrifolia into the genetic background of P. axillaris. The resulting introgression line resembled P. axillaris but produced only one-third of the nectar volume. When exposed simultaneously to low-nectar and wild-type P. axillaris plants, hawkmoth pollinators reduced their probing duration on low-nectar plants but otherwise did not show any signs of discrimination against these plants. However, reduced probing duration resulted in reduced seed production in the low-nectar plants despite their higher reproductive potential as evidenced by hand pollination. In line with this interpretation, we found a positive correlation between probing duration and seed set, and hawkmoth pollination of low-nectar plants that were manually supplemented with nectar to parental levels yielded seed sets similar to hand pollination. Thus, a simple self-serving pollinator behavior--the adjustment of probing time in response to nectar volume--may select against reducing nectar and protect many plant-pollinator mutualisms against a drift toward parasitism.

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PMID:
22840518
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2012.06.058
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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