Plant Reproductive Ecology
Fitness consequences of nectar robbing
Plants must protect themselves from an array of antagonist species, including parasites, herbivores, and exploiters of floral resources. Many plant species are subjected to exploitation of floral resources by nectar robbers, which consume nectar through holes they create in floral tissue, often avoiding floral reproductive structures. Once these organisms (termed “primary” nectar robbers) create robber holes in flowers, plants are subjected to additional, facilitated exploitation by so-called “secondary” nectar robbers, that may otherwise act as mutualists when robber holes are unavailable. The plant fitness consequences of nectar robbing are generally negative; however, we know very little about the differential effects of primary vs. secondary robbing. I conduct experimental robbing studies of long-lived perennial plants at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, quantifying the effects of primary and secondary robbing on female and male components of plant fitness. Collaborators in this work are Drs. Judie Bronstein, Jacob Heiling, Becky Irwin, and Elinor Lichtenberg.
Ipomopsis photo credit: Jacob Heiling. Seed and pollen photo credits: Trevor Ledbetter