Butterflies visit more frequently, but bees are better pollinators: the importance of mouthpart dimensions in effective pollen removal and deposition

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A long-tongued bee visiting a flower of pineland golden trumpet (Angadenia berteroi). Photo credit: Sean Pena.
A long-tongued bee visiting a flower of pineland golden trumpet (Angadenia berteroi). Photo credit: Sean Pena.

Pollination studies often use visitation frequency of potential pollinators as an indicator of their importance, but this is only one component and may not reflect actual pollen-transfer rates. In a recent study published in AoB PLANTS, Barrios Roque et al. used new approaches to understand the pollination biology of the pineland golden trumpet, Angadenia berteroi, a charismatic wildflower species that is native to south Florida pine rocklands, and ubiquitous in this imperiled, fire-successional habitat. In this system, the width of the proboscis of the pollinators was correlated with pollen transfer efficiency, and long­tongued bees were the most effective pollinators, though many other species visited the flowers. The distinctive morphology of these flowers, with a large bell and a narrow, short tube, suggests that other flowers of this shape may similarly benefit more from visitors with mouthparts shorter than previously considered optimal.

Reference

Barrios, B., Pena, S. R., Salas, A., & Koptur, S. (2016). Butterflies visit more frequently, but bees are better pollinators: the importance of mouthpart dimensions in effective pollen removal and deposition. AoB Plants, 8, plw001. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plw001


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