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PLOS ONE  2014 

Nectar Robbing Positively Influences the Reproductive Success of Tecomella undulata (Bignoniaceae)

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102607

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The net consequence of nectar robbing on reproductive success of plants is usually negative and the positive effect is rarely produced. We evaluated the influence of nectar robbing on the behaviour of pollinators and the reproductive success of Tecomella undulata (Bignoniaceae) in a natural population. Experimental pollinations showed that the trees were strictly self-incompatible. The three types of floral colour morphs of the tree viz. red, orange and yellow, lacked compatibility barriers. The pollinators (Pycnonotus cafer and Pycnonotus leucotis) and the robber (Nectarinia asiatica) showed equal preference for all the morphs, as they visited each morph with nearly equal frequency and flower-handling time. The sunbirds caused up to 60% nectar robbing, mostly (99%) by piercing through the corolla tube. Although nectar is replenished at regular intervals, insufficient amount of nectar compelled the pollinators to visit additional trees in bloom. Data of manual nectar robbing from the entire tree showed that the pollinators covered lower number of flowers per tree (5 flowers/tree) and more trees per bout (7 trees/bout) than the unrobbed ones (19 flowers/tree and 2 trees bout). The robbed trees set a significantly greater amount of fruits than the unrobbed trees. However, the number of seeds in a fruit did not differ significantly. The study shows that plant-pollinator-robber interaction may benefit the self-incompatible plant species under conditions that increases the visits of pollinators among the compatible conspecifics in a population.


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