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Neither insects nor wind: ambophily in dioecious Chamaedorea palms (Arecaceae)

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Abstract

Pollination of Neotropical dioecious trees is commonly related to generalist insects. Similar data for non-tree species with separated genders are inconclusive. Recent studies on pollination of dioecious Chamaedorea palms (Arecaceae) suggest that species are either insect- or wind-pollinated. However, the wide variety of inflorescence and floral attributes within the genus suggests mixed pollination mode involving entomophily and anemophily. To evaluate this hypothesis, we studied the pollination of Chamaedorea costaricana, C. macrospadix, C. pinnatifrons and C. tepejilote in two montane forests in Costa Rica. A complementary morphological analysis of floral traits was carried out to distinguish species groups within the genus according to their most probable pollination mechanism. We conducted pollinator exclusion experiments, field observations on visitors to pistillate and staminate inflorescences, and trapped airborne pollen. A cluster analysis using 18 floral traits selected for their association with wind and insect pollination syndromes was carried out using 52 Chamaedorea species. Exclusion experiments showed that both wind and insects, mostly thrips (Thysanoptera), pollinated the studied species. Thrips used staminate inflorescences as brood sites and pollinated pistillate flowers by deception. Insects caught on pistillate inflorescences transported pollen, while traps proved that pollen is wind-borne. Our empirical findings clearly suggest that pollination of dioecious Chamaedorea palms is likely to involve both insects and wind. A cluster analysis showed that the majority of studied species have a combination of floral traits that allow for both pollination modes. Our pollination experiments and morphological analysis both suggest that while some species may be completely entomophilous or anemophilous, ambophily might be a common condition within Chamaedorea. Our results propose a higher diversity of pollination mechanisms of Neotropical dioecious species than previously suggested.

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