23 December, 2022

Pollen accumulation on hawkmoths varies substantially among moth-pollinated flowers

By Smith et al.

Manduca sexta visits Oenothera harringtonii
Examining the pollen carried by flower visitors such as bees or moths is an excellent way to forensically reconstruct their behavior, such as the types of flowers they were visiting. This reconstruction, however, requires some assumptions: for example, to reconstruct the relative frequency with which they visited different flowers, you must assume that pollen from different flowers is picked up at similar rates. We tested this assumption for a number of flowers that are visited by hawkmoths, and found that despite similar natural pollinators the plants differed substantially in the amount of pollen they placed on the moths. Our findings suggest that comparisons within plant species (e.g., the amount of primrose pollen on two different pollinators) are likely sound, but that comparisons across plant species (e.g., the amount of primrose vs rock trumpet pollen on a single pollinator individual) should be cautious.  

Read the scientific publication in JPE here.

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