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Effects of low-efficiency pollinators on plant fitness and floral trait evolution in Campanula americana (Campanulaceae)

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Floral visitors vary in their pollination efficiency and their preferences for floral traits. If low-efficiency pollinators decrease the amount of pollen available to higher efficiency visitors, then low-efficiency visitors may actually have negative fitness consequences for the plants that they visit. We used experimental arrays in two populations to determine the floral preferences and the fitness effects of low-efficiency (or “ugly”) pollinators on Campanula americana. These ugly pollinators (halictid bees) preferentially visited flowers with pollen over flowers that had had their pollen removed. C. americana pollen color varies quantitatively from light tan to dark purple, and we found that natural variation in pollen color influenced the magnitude of halictid preferences for flowers with pollen. In general, preferences for flowers with pollen were stronger when the ugly pollinators foraged in arrays of flowers with tan-colored pollen than in arrays with purple-colored pollen. When plants received few visits by efficient Bombus pollinators, visits by ugly pollinators significantly decreased siring success relative to plants where visits by ugly pollinators were prevented. In contrast, ugly pollinators did not influence siring success when higher efficiency pollinators were more abundant. Thus, the relationship between low-efficiency pollinators and the plants that they visit varies from commensalistic to antagonistic depending on the presence of other pollinators in the community. Our findings suggest that the negative fitness effects and floral preferences of low-efficiency or “ugly” pollinators may contribute to the maintenance of a pollen color polymorphism in C. americana.

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Thanks to Daniela Bell, Kristina Gremski, and Matthew Katz for running allozyme gels, to Mountain Lake Biological Station (MLBS) for logistical support, and to two anonymous reviewers for comments on a previous version of the manuscript. Work was funded by NSF (REU-sites grant DBI-9732155 to MLBS, DEB-9974126 to L.F.G.).

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Correspondence to Jennifer A. Lau.

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Lau, J.A., Galloway, L.F. Effects of low-efficiency pollinators on plant fitness and floral trait evolution in Campanula americana (Campanulaceae). Oecologia 141, 577–583 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-004-1677-1

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  • Campanula americana
  • Low-efficiency pollinators
  • Plant–insect interactions
  • Pollen robbing
  • Pollen color