J Syst Evol

• Research Articles •    

Secondary pollen presentation: More than to increase pollen transfer precision

Yuan‐Qing Xu1,2, Zhong‐Lai Luo1*, Jia Wang1,2, Nan‐Cai Pei3, and Dian‐Xiang Zhang1   

  1. 1 Key Laboratory of Plant Resources Conservation and Sustainable Utilization, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510650, China
    2 University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3 Research Institute of Tropical Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Guangzhou 510520, China
  • Received:2020-10-05 Accepted:2021-01-25 Online:2021-02-01

Abstract: Pollination precision and efficiency have been deemed to be important driving forces in floral evolution. Herkogamy reduction is a main mechanism to increase pollination precision. Secondary pollen presentation (SPP), by which pollen is presented on other floral organs especially pistils, has been widely accepted as a special mechanism to increase pollen transfer precision through spatial reduction of the anther–stigma distance, that is, minimized herkogamy. This overlooks a potential driving force, that is expanding the pollination niche through converting pollen thieves and nectar robbers into effective pollinators. We selected two species as study models with typical pistillate SPP, Pavetta hongkongensis Bremek. (Rubiaceae) and Scaevola taccada (Gaertn.) Roxb. (Goodeniaceae). In both species, two distinct pollinator functional groups were recognized. Short‐tongued bees and flies fed on pollen on stigmas but also stole pollen from anthers and robbed nectar, whereas long‐tongued hawkmoths and butterflies only collected nectar. Emasculation had no influence on long‐tongued pollinators, but significantly decreased the visitation frequency of short‐tongued visitors and fruit set, compared to intact flowers, demonstrating short‐tongued visitors did not effectively pollinate and acted merely as pollen thieves or nectar robbers when SPP was absent. Data from the two plant species clearly indicated pistillate SPP has additional adaptive advantages of converting ineffective visitors into pollinators and consequently widening the pollination niche, which could help plants overcome environmental stochasticity. Our results suggest that multiple selective forces drive the evolution of SPP and the minimization of herkogamy.

Key words: functional pollinator group, generalization, minimized herkogamy, pollen theft, pollination reliability, secondary pollen presentation, tubular flower