Connective appendages in Huberia bradeana (Melastomataceae) affect pollen release during buzz pollination

T. Bochorny, L.F. Bacci, A.S. Dellinger, F.A. Michelangeli, R. Goldenberg, V.L.G. Brito

Floral structures, such as stamen appendages, play crucial roles in pollinator attraction, pollen release dynamics and, ultimately, the reproductive success of plants. The pollen-rewarding, bee buzz-pollinated flowers of Melastomataceae often bear conspicuous staminal appendages. Surprisingly, their functional role in the pollination process remains largely unclear. We use Huberia bradeana Bochorny & R. Goldenb. (Melastomataceae) with conspicuously elongated, twisted stamen appendages to investigate their functional role in the pollination process.

We studied the effect of stamen appendages on pollinator behaviour and reproductive success by comparing manipulated flowers (appendages removed) with unmanipulated flowers. To assess bee pollinator behaviour, we measured three properties of buzzes (vibrations) produced by bees on Huberia flowers: frequency, duration and number of buzzes per flower visit. We measured male and female reproductive success by monitoring pollen release and deposition after single bee visits. Finally, we used artificial vibrations and laser vibrometry to assess how flower vibrational properties change with the removal of stamen appendages.

Our results show that the absence of staminal appendages does not modify bee buzzing behaviour. Pollen release was higher in unmanipulated flowers, but stigmatic pollen loads differ only marginally between the two treatments. We also detected lower vibration amplitudes in intact flowers as compared to manipulated flowers in artificial vibration experiments.

The presence of connective appendages are crucial in transmitting vibrations and assuring optimal pollen release. Therefore, we propose that the high diversity of colours, shapes and sizes of connective appendages in buzz-pollinated flowers may have evolved by selection through male fitness.

Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
External organisation(s)
Universidade Estadual de Campinas, New York Bot Garden, Federal University of Parana, Universidade Federal de Uberlândia
Plant Biology
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106008 Botany, 106042 Systematic botany, 106012 Evolutionary research
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