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Novel nectar robbing negatively affects reproduction in Digitalis purpurea
  • Christopher Mackin,
  • Dave Goulson,
  • Maria Clara Castellanos
Christopher Mackin
University of Sussex
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Dave Goulson
University of Sussex
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Maria Clara Castellanos
University of Sussex
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Abstract

With many plant-pollinator interactions undergoing change, we require a better understanding of how the addition of new interacting partners, such as antagonists, can affect plant reproduction. One such group of antagonistic floral visitors, nectar robbers, can deplete plants of nectar rewards without contributing to pollination. The addition of nectar robbing to the floral visitor assemblage could therefore have costs to the plantĀ“s reproductive output. We focus on a recent plant colonist, Digitalis purpurea, a plant that in its native range is rarely robbed, but experiences intense nectar robbing in areas it has been introduced to. Here, we test the costs to reproduction following experimental nectar robbing. To identify any changes in the behaviour of the principal pollinators in response to nectar robbing, we measured visitation rates, visit duration, proportion of flowers visited and rate of rejection of inflorescences. To find the effects of robbing on fitness, we used proxies for female and male components of reproductive output, by measuring the seeds produced per fruit and the pollen export respectively. Nectar robbing significantly reduced the rate of visitation and lengths of visits by bumblebees. Additionally, bumblebees visited a lower proportion of flowers on an inflorescence that had robbed flowers. We found that flowers in the robbed treatment produced significantly fewer seeds per fruit on average but did not export fewer pollen grains. Our finding that robbing leads to reduced seed production could be due to fewer and shorter visits to flowers leading to less effective pollination. We discuss the potential consequences of new pollinator environments, such as exposure to nectar robbing, for plant reproduction.

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

29 Apr 2021Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
30 Apr 2021Assigned to Editor
30 Apr 2021Submission Checks Completed
06 May 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
10 Jun 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending