Thrips pollination of the dioecious ant plant Macaragana hullettii (Euphorbiaceae) in Southeast Asia
, Fiala B.
, Federle W.
, Maschwitz U.
American Journal of Botany
, 2002. V. 89. No. 1. P. 50–59.
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Botanical Society of America · email@example.com
Discussion about thrips (Thysanoptera) as main pollinators has been controversial in the past because thrips do not fit the preconception of an effective pollinator. In this study, we present evidence for thrips pollination in the dioecious pioneer tree genus Macaranga (Euphorbiaceae). Macaranga hullettii is pollinated predominantly by one thrips species, Neoheegeria sp. (Phlaeothripidae, Thysanoptera). As a reward for pollinators, the protective floral bracteoles function as breeding sites for thrips and trichomal nectaries on the adaxial surface of the floral bracteoles provide alimentation. Flowering phenology of both staminate and pistillate trees was highly synchronized within 3-4 wk periods. In contrast to pistillate trees, staminate trees start to breed the thrips inside the developing inflorescences ∼2 wk before anthesis. Breeding of Neoheegeria sp. in the laboratory indicates that the thrips development is completed within ∼17 d. Thus, staminate trees offer breeding sites for one thrips generation until the onset of pollen presentation. Intraspecific pollen transfer by thrips was proved by pollen loads of thrips taken from receptive pistillate inflorescences of M. hullettii. Bagging experiments of different mesh sizes showed that seed set reached almost the level of open-pollinated flowers when exclusively tiny insects like thrips were able to enter the net bags, but no apomictic seed set occurred when no insect access was given to the flowers.