Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Laport. R. G., R. L. Minckley, and D. Pilson. 2021. Pollinator assemblage and pollen load differences on sympatric diploid and tetraploid cytotypes of the desert-dominant Larrea tridentata. American Journal of Botany 108(2): 297–308 doi:10.1002/ajb2.1605




PREMISE: Whole-genome duplication (polyploidy) is an important force shaping flowering plant evolution. Ploidy-specific plant–pollinator interactions represent important community-level biotic interactions that can lead to nonrandom mating and the persistence of mixed-ploidy populations. METHODS: At a naturally occurring diploid–tetraploid contact zone of the autopolyploid desert shrub Larrea tridentata, we combined flower phenology analyses, collections of bees on plants of known cytotype, and flow cytometry analyses of bee-collected pollen loads to investigate whether (1) diploid and tetraploid plants have unique bee pollinator assemblages, (2) bee taxa exhibit ploidy-specific visitation and pollen collection biases, and (3) specialist and generalist bee taxa have ploidy-specific visitation and pollen collection biases. RESULTS: Although bee assemblages overlapped, we found significant differences in bee visitation to co-occurring diploids and tetraploids, with the introduced honeybee (Apis mellifera) and one native species (Andrena species 12) more frequently visiting tetraploids. Consistent with bee assemblage differences, we found that diploid pollen was overrepresented among pollen loads on native bees, while pollen loads on A. mellifera did not deviate from the random expectation. However, mismatches between the ploidy of pollen loads and plants were common, consistent with ongoing intercytotype gene flow. CONCLUSIONS: Our data are consistent with cytotype-specific bee visitation and suggest that pollinator behavior contributes to reduced diploid–tetraploid mating. Differences in bee visitation and pollen movement potentially contribute to an easing of minority cytotype exclusion and the facilitation of cytotype co-occurrence.

Included in

Biology Commons