Flower orientation influences the consistency of bumblebee movement within inflorescences

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Abstract

Background and Aims Plant species differ greatly in the three-dimensional arrangements of their flowers (inflorescence architecture). However, the nature of selection responsible for this diversity is poorly understood. Studies that examine among-species variation suggest that inflorescence architecture affects pollinator behaviour, and so should influence plant mating. However, few studies consider the consequences of within-population architectural variation for pollinator behaviour.

Methods We manipulated inflorescence architecture of Delphinium glaucum to contrast bumblebee responses to normal and one-sided (secund) inflorescences.

Key Results The ‘dimensionality’ of manipulated inflorescences did not affect the number of flowers that bees visited; however, bees moved upward proportionally more on secund inflorescences.

Conclusions This study shows that realistic within-population variation in inflorescence architecture can manipulate pollinator behaviour. These results bear important consequences for plant mating success and the coordinated evolution of inflorescence architecture and floral specialization within inflorescences. These results also question why secund inflorescences are rare, for which we propose four testable explanations.

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