Flower movement balances pollinator needs and pollen protection

Alexander Haverkamp, Xiang Li, Bill S. Hansson, Ian T. Baldwin, Markus Knaden*, Felipe Yon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Flower signaling and orientation are key characteristics that determine a flower's pollinator guild. However, many flowers actively move during their daily cycle, changing both their detectability and accessibility to pollinators. The flowers of the wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata orientate their corolla upward at sunset and downward after sunrise. Here, we investigated the effect of different flower orientations on a major pollinator of N. attenuata, the hawkmoth Manduca sexta. We found that although flower orientation influenced the flight altitude of the moth in respect to the flower, it did not alter the moth's final flower choice. These behavioral observations were consistent with the finding that orientation did not systematically change the spatial distribution of floral volatiles, which are major attractants for the moths. Moreover, hawkmoths invested the same amount of time into probing flowers at different orientations, even though they were only able to feed and gather pollen from horizontally and upward-oriented flowers, but not from downward-facing flowers. The orientation of the flower was hence crucial for a successful interaction between N. attenuata and its hawkmoth pollinator. Additionally, we also investigated potential adverse effects of exposing flowers at different orientations to natural daylight levels, finding that anther temperature of upward-oriented flowers was more than 7°C higher than for downward-oriented flowers. This increase in temperature likely caused the significantly reduced germination success that was observed for pollen grains from upward-oriented flowers in comparison to those of downward and horizontally oriented flowers. These results highlight the importance of flower reorientation to balance pollen protection and a successful interaction of the plant with its insect pollinators by maintaining the association between flower volatiles and flower accessibility to the pollinator.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02553
JournalEcology
Volume100
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Keywords

  • flower handling
  • flower orientation
  • Manduca
  • Nicotiana
  • pollen viability
  • pollination

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