- Plant reproduction depends on how they interact with pollinators
- Studying individual plants’ interactions is important, as it affects their ability to reproduce
- Where a plant is located in the pollination network and how choosy it is about its pollinators can really affect how well it can reproduce.
Unraveling the pollination network
In plants that rely on animals for pollination, how well they reproduce depends on how they interact with their pollinators. Scientists usually study these interactions by looking at whole species, but they overlooked how individual plants might attract pollinators differently and how that affects their ability to reproduce. To address this, researchers studied 14 plant species pollinated by hummingbirds in the Atlantic Forest.
They measured some special factors to see how they relate to plant reproduction. At the species level, they didn’t find a direct link between these factors and how well the plants reproduced. Instead, they discovered that when a hummingbird’s beak length matched the flower length better, the plant was more successful at reproducing.
But when they looked at individual plants, they found something different. Plants that were more “central” in the pollination network (meaning they shared pollinators with lots of other plants) produced fewer seeds because the pollen they received wasn’t as good. On the other hand, plants that were less picky about their pollinators produced more seeds, possibly because they received more pollen from their own kind.
The study shows that where a plant is located in the pollination network and how choosy it is about its pollinators can really affect how well it can reproduce. Understanding these things is important to know how effective pollination is for these plants and how well they will do in the long run.
Learn about the work of our Restoration Steward Analí Bustos and access her field guide “Interactions of six species of hummingbird in Santa Teresa” in Portuguese.