Feeding the enemy: loss of nectar and nectaries to herbivores reduces tepal damage and increases pollinator attraction in Iris bulleyana

Ya-Ru Zhu, Min Yang, Jana C. Vamosi, Scott Armbruster, Tao Wan, Yan-Bing Gong

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Abstract

Floral nectar usually functions as a pollinator reward, yet it may also attract herbivores. However, the effects of herbivore consumption of nectar or nectaries on pollination have rarely been tested. We investigated Iris bulleyana, an alpine plant that has showy tepals and abundant nectar, in the Hengduan Mountains of SW China. In this region, flowers are visited mainly by pollen-collecting pollinators and nectarivorous herbivores. We tested the hypothesis that, in I. bulleyana, sacrificing nectar and nectaries to herbivores protects tepals and thus enhances pollinator attraction. We compared rates of pollination and herbivory on different floral tissues in plants with flowers protected from nectar and nectary consumption with rates in unprotected control plants. We found that nectar and nectaries suffered more herbivore damage than did tepals in natural conditions. However, the amount of tepal damage was significantly greater in the flowers with protected nectaries than in the controls; this resulted in significant differences in pollinator visitation rates. These results provide the first evidence that floral nectar and nectaries may be ‘sacrificed’ to herbivores, leading to reduced damage to other floral tissues that are more important for reproduction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20170271
JournalBiology Letters
Volume13
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2017

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