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Summary

Floral nectar is regarded as the most important reward available to animal-pollinated plants to attract pollinators. Despite the vast amount of publications on nectar properties, the role of nectar as a natural bacterial habitat is yet unexplored. To gain a better understanding of bacterial communities inhabiting floral nectar, culture-dependent and -independent (454-pyrosequencing) methods were used. Our findings demonstrate that bacterial communities in nectar are abundant and diverse. Using culture-dependent method we showed that bacterial communities of nectar displayed significant variation among three plant species: Amygdalus communis, Citrus paradisi and Nicotiana glauca. The dominant class in the nectar bacterial communities was Gammaproteobacteria. About half of the isolates were novel species (< 97% similarities of the 16S rRNA gene with known species). Using 454-pyrosequencing we demonstrated that nectar microbial community are distinct for each of the plant species while there are no significant differences between nectar microbial communities within nectars taken from different plants of the same species. Primary selection of the nectar bacteria is unclear; it may be affected by variations in the chemical composition of the nectar in each plant. The role of the rich and diverse nectar microflora in the attraction–repulsion relationships between the plant and its nectar consumers has yet to be explored.