Pollen dispensing schedules in buzz-pollinated plants: Experimental comparison of species with contrasting floral morphologies


Kemp JE & Vallejo-Marín M (2021) Pollen dispensing schedules in buzz-pollinated plants: Experimental comparison of species with contrasting floral morphologies. American Journal of Botany, 108 (6), pp. 993-1005.

Premise: Plants can mitigate the fitness costs associated with pollen consumption by floral visitors by optimizing pollen release rates. In buzz-pollinated plants, bees apply vibrations to remove pollen from anthers with small pores. These poricidal anthers potentially function as mechanism staggering pollen release, but this has rarely been tested across plant species differing in anther morphology. Methods: In Solanum section Androceras, three pairs of buzz-pollinated species have undergone independent evolutionary shifts between large- and small-flowers, which are accompanied by replicate changes in anther morphology. We used these shifts in anther morphology to characterise the association between anther morphology and pollen dispensing schedules. We applied simulated bee-like vibrations to anthers to elicit pollen release, and compared pollen dispensing schedules across anther morphologies. We also investigated how vibration velocity affects pollen release. Key Results: Replicate transitions in Solanum anther morphology are associated with consistent changes in pollen dispensing schedules. We found that small-flowered taxa release their pollen at higher rates than their large-flowered counterparts. Higher vibration velocities resulted in quicker pollen dispensing and more total pollen released. Finally, both the pollen dispensing rate and the amount of pollen released in the first vibration were negatively related to anther wall area, but we did not observe any association between pore size and pollen dispensing. Conclusions: Our results provide the first empirical demonstration that the pollen dispensing properties of poricidal anthers depend on both floral characteristics and bee vibration properties. Morphological modification of anthers could thus provide a mechanism to exploit different pollination environments.

buzz pollination; biomechanics; pollen presentation theory; poricidal anther morphology; Solanum; sonication

American Journal of Botany: Volume 108, Issue 6

FundersThe Leverhulme Trust and Royal Society
Publication date30/06/2021
Publication date online01/07/2021
Date accepted by journal13/01/2021
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