Reproductive biology of the melon cactus, Melocactus curvispinus (Cactaceae)
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We examined the reproductive biology of Melocactus curvispinus Pfeiffer (Cereeae, Cactoideae) in xeric areas of northern Venezuela. Floral traits correspond to a classic hummingbird-pollination syndrome; however, pollination is shared between hummingbirds, Leucippus fallax (Bourcier 1843), and anthophorid bees, Ceratina sp. Reproduction occurs during most of the year. Anthesis and nectar secretion occur between noon and sunset. Average daily nectar production per flower was 163.1 μl, nectar sugar concentration between 29.1 and 30.2% (w/w). Hummingbirds promoted inter-plant pollen movement and were relatively more reliable floral visitors than anthophorid bees, but these insects had a higher frequency of floral visits (28.75/day) than hummingbirds (4.96/day). M. curvispinus is self-compatible and autogamous. By combining extended reproductive activity, frequent animal-mediated pollination, and selfing capabilities, this cactus possesses a mating strategy that guarantees reproduction under variable environmental conditions. We argue that based on its reproductive biology, M. curvispinus should be considered an example of evolutionary transition towards selfing within tribe Cereeae.
Key wordsAutogamous breeding system Cactaceae anthophorid bees hummingbird Melocactus curvispinus pollination self-compati-bility
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