Journal Article

Realized tolerance to nectar robbing: compensation to floral enemies in <i>Ipomopsis aggregata</i>

Rebecca E. Irwin

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 103, issue 9, pages 1425-1433
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online March 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Realized tolerance to nectar robbing: compensation to floral enemies in Ipomopsis aggregata

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

Although the ecological and evolutionary consequences of foliar herbivory are well understood, how plants cope with floral damage is less well explored. Here the concept of tolerance, typically studied within the context of plant defence to foliar herbivores and pathogens, is extended to floral damage. Variation in tolerance to floral damage is examined, together with some of the mechanisms involved.


The study was conducted on Ipomopsis aggregata, which experiences floral damage and nectar removal by nectar-robbing bees. High levels of robbing can reduce seeds sired and produced by up to 50 %, an indirect effect mediated through pollinator avoidance of robbed plants. Using an experimental common garden with groups of I. aggregata, realized tolerance to robbing was measured. Realized tolerance included both genetic and environmental components of tolerance. It was hypothesized that both resource acquisition and storage traits, and traits involved in pollination would mitigate the negative effects of robbers.

Key Results

Groups of I. aggregata varied in their ability to tolerate nectar robbing. Realized tolerance was observed only through a component of male plant reproduction (pollen donation) and not through components of female plant reproduction. Some groups fully compensated for robbing while others under- or overcompensated. Evidence was found only for a pollination-related trait, flower production, associated with realized tolerance. Plants that produced more flowers and that had a higher inducibility of flower production following robbing were more able to compensate through male function.


Variation in realized tolerance to nectar robbing was found in I. aggregata, but only through an estimate of male reproduction, and traits associated with pollination may confer realized tolerance to robbing. By linking concepts and techniques from studies of plant–pollinator and plant–herbivore interactions, this work provides insight into the role of floral traits in pollinator attraction as well as plant defence.

Keywords: Compensation; herbivory; indirect effects; Ipomopsis aggregata; male reproductive success; nectar robbing; pollen donation; pollination; resistance; tolerance

Journal Article.  6917 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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