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AID: 1277755055
Spatial and Temporal Dispersion Patterns of Pollinators and their Relationship to the Flowering Strategy of Yucca whipplei (Agavaceae)
Oecologia, . V. 54. P. 243252 (10).
A field investigation of the mutualistic interaction between a monocarpic perennial plant, Yucca whipplei, and its host-specific pollinator and seed predator, Tegeticula maculata (Lepidoptera: Prodoxidae), was conducted to determine how the resource utilization pattern and population dynamics of the pollinator have influenced the evolution of the flowering and fruiting pattern of the plant. Although the temporal pattern of emergence of pollinators results in a relatively close tracking of flower abundance within a season, the ratio of pollinators to open flowers does vary significantly within a season, as well as between seasons. At any point in time during the flowering season, the population of adult yucca moths is distributed evenly among the available flowers, so that the number of pollinators on an inflorescence is directly proportional to the number of open flowers available. The relative isolation of individual flowering plants appears to have little effect on the distribution of pollinators among inflorescences. The number of fruits initiated on a plant is directly proportional to the number of flowers produced, and is also partially determined by the time of flowering. Yucca whipplei always produces many more flowers than fruits. Most flowers are not fertilized, and the plants also generally abort and abscise immature fruits after flowering. Fruit production of at least some plants, however, appeared limited by pollination. It is also expected that in some years the relative abundance of pollinators will be low enough that most plants will be pollinator-limited. It is suggested that the pattern of flowering and fruiting of this species has evolved in response to the unpredictability of pollinator availability, both within and between seasons. Resource uncertainty and selection acting on the male component of fitness may also be involved.
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