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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19290

Title: The Ecological Consequences and Adaptive Function of Nectar Secondary Metabolites
Authors: Manson, Jessamyn
Advisor: Thomson, James
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Keywords: plant-animal interactions
chemical ecology
pollination biology
toxic nectar
Bombus impatiens
Gelsemium sempervirens
Asclepias
Crithidia bombi
behavioural ecology
Issue Date: 3-Mar-2010
Abstract: Plants are under selection to simultaneously attract pollinators while deterring herbivores. This dilemma can lead to tradeoffs in floral traits, which are traditionally thought to be optimized for pollinators. My dissertation addresses the ecological costs and putative functional significance of nectar secondary metabolites, a paradoxical but widespread phenomenon in the angiosperms. I investigate this issue from the pollinator’s perspective using a series of controlled laboratory investigations focused primarily on the bumble bee Bombus impatiens and the nectar alkaloid gelsemine, from Gelsemium sempervirens. I begin by demonstrating that nectar enriched with the alkaloid gelsemine significantly deters visits from bumble bees at a range of natural alkaloid concentrations. However, this aversion can be mitigated by increasing the sucrose concentration such that the alkaloid-rich nectar is more rewarding than its alkaloid-free counterpart. I then demonstrate that the consumption of gelsemine-rich nectar can inhibit oocyte development and protein utilization in bees, but that this effect is limited to bees of suboptimal condition. Continuous consumption of the nectar alkaloid gelsemine also leads to a reduction in the pathogen load of bumble bees infected with Crithidia bombi, but direct interactions between the pathogen and the alkaloid have no impact on infection intensity. Gelsemine also fails to inhibit floral yeast growth, suggesting that nectar alkaloids may not be universally antimicrobial. Finally, I demonstrate that gross nectar cardenolides from the genus Asclepias are strongly correlated with gross leaf cardenolides and that the majority of individual cardenolides found in nectar are a subset of those identified in leaves. This pattern suggests that nectar cardenolides are a consequence of defense for Asclepias; however, they may not be a costly corollary because bumble bees show an overall preference for nectar cardenolides at mean concentrations. Altogether, my dissertation provides a new perspective on the role of chemical defenses against herbivores in plant-pollinator interactions.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19290
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology - Doctoral theses

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