Testing non-additive effects of nectar-robbing ants and hummingbird pollination on the reproductive success of a parasitic plant
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Nectar robbing may have an indirect negative effect on plant reproduction by discouraging legitimate pollinator species from visiting robbed flowers. In this study, we set up a 2 × 2 factorial design with nectar-robbing ants and hummingbird pollination to test for non-additive effects on fruit set, seed mass, and seed germination of the leafless mistletoe Tristerix aphyllus (Loranthaceae). Even though ants caused conspicuous damage at the base of the floral tubes, nectar availability was reduced by only 8 % in the presence of ants. The green-backed firecrown Sephanoides sephaniodes was insensitive to the presence of ants. Rather, the bird responded to flower number and the presence or the absence of damage, but not to the extent of damage within inflorescences. As hummingbirds were largely insensitive to variation in nectar robbing, the interaction ant × hummingbird had no effect on plant-reproductive success. Thus, the factorial experiment did not provide evidence for indirect negative effects of nectar robbing on plant reproduction. These results suggest that indirect effects of nectar robbers on pollinator behaviour may occur under a more restricted set of conditions than those previously considered. We suggest that the low amount of nectar removed by nectar-robbing ants was insufficient for hummingbirds to avoid robbed flowers, which restricted the potential for non-additive effects.
KeywordsChile Flower damage Fruit set Germination Indirect effects Mistletoe Sephanoides Tristerix
CONAF IV Región authorized the above study at Las Chinchillas National Reserve. This study was funded by FONDECYT Grants 1010660 and 1120155.
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