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Floral asymmetry and predation risk modify pollinator behavior, but only predation risk decreases plant fitness


Although predators and floral herbivores can potentially decrease plant fitness by changing pollinator behaviors, studies comparing the strength of these factors as well as their additive and interactive effects on pollinator visitation and plant fitness have not been conducted. In this study, we manipulated the floral symmetry and predator presence (artificial crab spiders) on the flowers of the shrub Rubus rosifolius (Rosaceae) in a 2 × 2 factorial randomized block design. We found that asymmetry and predators decreased pollinator visitation (mainly hymenopterans), and overall these factors did not interact (additive effects). The effect of predation risk on pollinator avoidance behavior was 62 % higher than that of floral asymmetry. Furthermore, path analyses revealed that only predation risk cascaded down to plant fitness, and it significantly decreased fruit biomass by 33 % and seed number by 28 %. We also demonstrated that R. rosifolius fitness is indirectly affected by visiting and avoidance behaviors of pollinators. The strong avoidance behavioral response triggered by predation risk may be related to predator pressure upon flowers. Although floral asymmetry caused by herbivory can alter the quality of resources, it should not exert the same evolutionary pressure as that of predator–prey interactions. Our study highlights the importance of considering simultaneous forces, such as predation risk and floral asymmetry, as well as pollinator behavior when evaluating ecological processes involving mutualistic plant-pollinator systems.

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We would like to thank Yuri Campanholo Gradinete and Prof. Dr André Victor Lucci Freitas for providing identifications of Hymenoptera and Lepidoptera, respectively; Dr Jennifer Thaler and an anonymous reviewer for their comments; Adriano Mendonça for providing help during fieldwork; and Prof. Dr Fernando Rodrigues da Silva for providing help with statistical analyses. We would also like to thank the City Hall of Jundiaí and staff of the Biological Reserve of Serra do Japi, Jundiaí. P. A. P. Antiqueira received a master’s degree scholarship from the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo(FAPESP; proc. no. 2009/11874-6). G. Q. Romero received a productivity grant from the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico). The present study was funded by FAPESP.

Author contribution statement

P. A. P. A. and G. Q. R. conceived and designed the experiments, analyzed the data, and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gustavo Quevedo Romero.

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Communicated by Carlos L. Ballare.

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Antiqueira, P.A.P., Romero, G.Q. Floral asymmetry and predation risk modify pollinator behavior, but only predation risk decreases plant fitness. Oecologia 181, 475–485 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-016-3564-y

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  • Trait-mediated indirect interaction
  • Mutualism
  • Plant reproductive success
  • Flowering plant evolution
  • Path analysis