Coloured and Toxic Nectar: Feeding Choices of the Madagascar Giant Day Gecko, Phelsuma grandis



Ingrid A. Minnaar, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, 0002 Pretoria, South Africa.



Coloured nectar is a rare phenomenon best known from islands and insular habitats. Islands are also known for lizard pollination, where coloured nectar potentially acts as a visual cue to attract pollinators, advertising the sweet reward. However, nectar may also contain secondary metabolites with toxic or deterrent effects. The aim of this study was to determine which factors are important as artificial nectar choice determinants to the Madagascar giant day gecko, Phelsuma grandis, an island pollinator: artificial nectar colour, artificial nectar colour saturation, artificial nectar conspicuousness and/or the presence of the alkaloid nicotine. Coloured artificial nectar and the darkest artificial nectar colour saturation were found to be important visual cues for the geckos, while the contrast between artificial nectar and petal colour was not. Geckos were deterred only by high nicotine concentrations (1000 μm in 0.63 m sucrose) and may even prefer low nicotine concentrations to sucrose-only solutions. Given their overall fondness for sugar solutions, Madagascar giant day geckos are likely to be important pollinators of Malagasy plant species that produce enough nectar to attract them, and plants with coloured nectar and/or secondary metabolites may have evolved those traits to attract the geckos in particular.