Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 183, Issue 7, pp 867–876 | Cite as

A review of the energetics of pollination biology

  • Kimberly P. McCallum
  • Freya O. McDougall
  • Roger S. SeymourEmail author


Pollination biology is often associated with mutualistic interactions between plants and their animal pollen vectors, with energy rewards as the foundation for co-evolution. Energy is supplied as food (often nectar from flowers) or as heat (in sun-tracking or thermogenic plants). The requirements of pollinators for these resources depend on many factors, including the costs of living, locomotion, thermoregulation and behaviour, all of which are influenced by body size. These requirements are modified by the availability of energy offered by plants and environmental conditions. Endothermic insects, birds and bats are very effective, because they move faster and are more independent of environmental temperatures, than are ectothermic insects, but they are energetically costly for the plant. The body size of endothermic pollinators appears to be influenced by opposing requirements of the animals and plants. Large body size is advantageous for endotherms to retain heat. However, plants select for small body size of endotherms, as energy costs of larger size are not matched by increases in flight speed. If high energy costs of endothermy cannot be met, birds and mammals employ daily torpor, and large insects reduce the frequency of facultative endothermy. Energy uptake can be limited by the time required to absorb the energy or eliminate the excess water that comes with it. It can also be influenced by variations in climate that determine temperature and flowering season.


Energy Metabolic rate Pollinator Insect Bird Bat Nectar Torpor Endothermy Body size Scaling Allometry 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kimberly P. McCallum
    • 1
    • 2
  • Freya O. McDougall
    • 1
  • Roger S. Seymour
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Eco Logical Australia Pty LtdAustinmerAustralia

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