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Breeding system, pollinator choice and variation in pollen quality in British herbaceous plants

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 18:58 authored by M E Hanley, M Franco, S Pichon, B Darvill, Dave GoulsonDave Goulson
1. Although it is well established that different plant species vary considerably in the quality of pollinator rewards they offer, it is unclear how plant reproductive systems, in particular an obligate dependence on insects for pollination, might influence the evolution of pollinator rewards. Moreover, unlike the interaction between nectar reward and pollinator visitation, we have a limited understanding of the way in which pollen quality influences pollinator foraging behaviour. 2. We quantified the pollen protein and amino acid content for 23 NW European plant species. Pollen quality was compared with breeding system (facultative- vs. obligate insect-pollinated). A subset of 18 plants was sampled from a single habitat. For these we compared the proportion of pollen collection visits made by bumblebees with the quality of pollen offered. 3. We found a significant association between pollen quality and reproductive system; pollen of obligate insect-pollinated species contained higher protein content. We also found a significant relationship with pollinator use; plants most frequently visited by pollen-collecting bumblebees produced the highest-quality pollen. 4. We discuss how the close relationship between pollen quality and bumblebee attraction may have important benefits for plant reproductive success. However, we also show how the disruption of this mutualism can have detrimental consequences for plant and pollinator alike. © 2008 The Authors.


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  • Published


Functional Ecology




Blackwell Publishing





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  • Evolution, Behaviour and Environment Publications

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  • Yes

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