Evol Ecol Res 12: 119-129 (2010)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Discrimination among floral resources by an obligately pollinating seed-eating moth: host-marking signals and pollination and florivory cues

Katherine C. Horn and J. Nathaniel Holland

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA

Correspondence: J.N. Holland, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice University, MS-170, 6100 Main St., Houston, TX 77005, USA.
e-mail: jholland@rice.edu


Background: For oviposition, some insects exploit small discrete food items from which their larvae then develop but do not disperse. In particular, senita moths exploit senita cacti by obligately pollinating and ovipositing floral resources. Larvae consume the fruit but do not disperse among them. Previous studies have shown that moth oviposition occurs in a non-random, uniform distribution among floral resources (one egg per flower).

Question: Do host-marking pheromones of senita moths, pollinated stigmas, and florivory act as signals and cues that aid them to avoid ovipositing in the previously exploited floral resources?

Methods: We measured rates of moth pollination and oviposition of flowers in a series of experiments. In one experiment, we simulated pheromone deposition by placing an extract of moth abdomens on flowers. In another, we compared oviposition rates on hand-pollinated flowers with those on controls. In a third, we simulated florivory by damaging stigmas, anthers or petals.

Results: Moth exploitation of floral resources was higher for control than abdomen-extract flowers. Control flowers received more ovipositions than those with pollinated stigmas. Finally, damaging the stigmas of flowers reduced ovipositions, although neither anther nor petal damage did so.

Conclusion: Host-marking signals and the cues of pollinated stigmas and of florivory aid in the differential exploitation of floral resources by senita moths and their uniform distribution of eggs among flowers.

Keywords: cue, florivory, oviposition, pheromone, signal.

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