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Pollen larceny of the tropical weed Solanum torvum by a Fijian endemic halictine bee with implications for the spread of plants with specialized pollinator requirements

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2017

Morgan Staines
Affiliation:
School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia
Cathy Vo
Affiliation:
School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia
Natalie Puiu
Affiliation:
School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia
Sarah Hayes
Affiliation:
School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia
Marika Tuiwawa
Affiliation:
South Pacific Regional Herbarium, University of the South Pacific, PO Box 1168, Suva, Fiji
Mark I. Stevens*
Affiliation:
South Australian Museum, GPO Box 234, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia
Michael P. Schwarz
Affiliation:
School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia
*
*Corresponding author. Email: mark.stevens@samuseum.sa.gov.au

Abstract:

The ability of plants to colonize new habitats is influenced by their dependence on effective pollinators. This can be very important for plants that require specialized pollinators, especially when they disperse to islands that have low pollinator diversity. One form of specialization involves plants that require buzz-pollination, where bees must vibrate poricidal anthers at frequencies that allow pollen to be released. Pollen larceny is a phenomenon where insects ‘steal’ pollen from flowers which usually results in reduced pollination, but in some cases there can be a small contribution to pollination. Here we report pollen larceny in an endemic Fijian halictine bee Homalictus fijiensis that steals pollen by chewing anthers of the invasive weed Solanum torvum, which is a pollen-only plant requiring buzz pollination. In over nine hours of observations at six sites where H. fijiensis visited S. torvum, it never attempted to locate nectaries, it never buzzed anthers, and instead chewed anther tips, indicating an adaptation to exploit nectarless flowers with poricidal anthers without buzz-pollination. Analyses of 30 pollen loads from H. fijiensis collected from S. torvum flowers indicate 27 of these contained S. torvum pollen, ranging from 1% to 99% of total pollen, indicating it is a pollen vector for this plant. Our findings support arguments that super-generalist pollinators in island ecosystems can promote the spread of invasive plants, but go further by indicating that super-generalist strategies can extend to plants with highly specialized pollinator requirements.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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Footnotes

Equal contributions.

References

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Pollen larceny of the tropical weed Solanum torvum by a Fijian endemic halictine bee with implications for the spread of plants with specialized pollinator requirements
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