Relationship between floral tube length and nectar robbing in Duranta erecta L. (Verbenaceae)



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    1. Departamento de Biología Vegetal, Facultad de Ciencias, Campus As Lagoas-Marcosende, Universidad de Vigo, 36200-Vigo, Spain
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    1. Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile
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Although nectar robbing is a common phenomenon in plant species with tubular flowers or flowers with nectar spurs, the potential effect of this illegitimate interaction on plant reproductive success has not received the deserved attention. In the present study, we analysed the functional relationship between flower morphology and nectar robbing, and examined the reproductive consequences of the interaction in a population of Duranta erecta (Verbenaceae) on the island of Cuba. The results show that nectar robbing is conducted by the carpenter bees Xylocopa cubaecola and affects up to 44% of flowers in the studied population. However, not all the flowers have the same probability of being robbed. The chance of flowers being robbed increases with flower length and flower diameter. Moreover, nectar robbing significantly decreases the chance that flowers will set fruit. Also, the impact of nectar robbing on the probability of flowers to set fruits is dependent on the plant. We suggest that nectar robbing may represent an opposite selective force that balances the selection for longer corollas often imposed by pollinators specializing in visiting tubular flowers. Such a relationship with nectar robbers would have obvious implications for the evolution of tubular or closed flowers. This preliminary finding deserves further research in light of the ecological and evolutionary consequences of nectar robbing in tubular flowers. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 96, 392–398.