, Volume 70, Issue 4, pp 486–494 | Cite as

Variation in the costs and benefits of mutualism: the interaction between yuccas and yucca moths

  • John F. Addicott
Original Papers


Yucca moths are both obligate pollinators and obligate seed predators of yuccas. I measured the costs and net benefits per fruit arising for eight species of yuccas from their interaction with the yucca moth Tegeticula yuccasella. Yucca moths decrease the production of viable seeds as a result of oviposition by adults and feeding by larvae. Oviposition through the ovary wall caused 2.3–28.6% of ovules per locule to fail to develop, leaving fruit with constrictions, and overall, 0.6–6.6% of ovules per fruit were lost to oviposition by yucca moths. Individual yucca moth larvae ate 18.0–43.6% of the ovules in a locule. However, because of the number of larvae per fruit and the proportion of viable seeds, yucca moth larvae consumed only 0.0–13.6% of potentially viable ovules per fruit. Given both oviposition and feeding effects, yucca moths decreased viable seed production by 0.6–19.5%. The ratio of costs to (gross) benefits varied from 0% to 30%, indicating that up to 30% of the benefits available to yuccas are subsequently lost to yucca moths. The costs are both lower and more variable than in a similar pollinator-seed predator mutualism involving figs and fig wasps.

There were differences between species of yuccas in the costs of associating with yucca moths. Yuccas with baccate fruit experienced lower costs than species with capsular fruit. There were also differences in costs between populations within species and high variation in costs between fruit within populations. High variability was the result of no yucca moth larvae being present in over 50% of the fruit in some populations, while other fruit produced up to 24 larvae. I present hypotheses explaining both the absence and high numbers of larvae per fruit.

Key words

Mutualism Yucca Yucca Moths Gestbenefit analysis Seed predation 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • John F. Addicott
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Rocky Mountain Biological LaboratoryCrested ButteUSA

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