Some effects of variability in nectar renewal-rates on the hummingbird-foraging/plant-pollination mutualism
AuthorWethington, Susan Marie
AdvisorRosenzweig, Michael L.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractHow does variability in nectar secretion rates affect the interaction between hummingbirds and the plants that: they pollinate? Other researchers have suggested that variability may influence pollinators to leave a plant earlier, thus increasing the potential for cross-pollination. My dissertation asks the following questions: Does variability in nectar secretion rates influence hummingbird visitation at a flower patch? Does it do so in a manner that is likely to increase; cross-pollination? And, does variability in these rates benefit the hummingbird by improving their foraging efficiency? By asking if variability benefits both plants and hummingbirds, I implicitly ask the question: Can variability in nectar secretion rates be a mechanism that helps keep this potentially antagonistic interaction positive? I developed an artificial flower that simulates nectar secretion. Using patches of these artificial flowers, I varied renewal rates of flowers found within a patch. The appendices describe the results of my studies. The aviary experiment (Appendix A) investigates how Broad-billed hummingbirds (Cynanthus latirostris) forage given variability in nectar renewal-rates. The field experiment (Appendix B) investigates how hummingbird visitation to patches with different renewal-rates might affect cross-pollination. Appendix C describes the hummingbird community at the study site. Appendix D identifies the plants visited by these hummingbirds. In the aviary experiment, Broad-billed hummingbirds changed their foraging when exposed to high variability and limited nectar. They visited a higher percentage of rewarding flowers, foraged more systematically, and significantly decreased their foraging time. These changes made their foraging more efficient. In the field experiment, increased renewal-rate variability was associated with hummingbirds visiting fewer artificial flowers per foraging bout. These results suggest cross-pollination may be increased. However, levels of renewal-rate variability did not affect the visitation rates to the flower patch or the distribution of nectar within the patch. Hummingbirds spent significantly more time probing the last flower in a foraging bout than other flowers, and preferentially ended foraging bouts on a rapidly renewing flower. I suggest that the energetic cost of hovering flight likely influenced this behavior. My results support the hypothesis that variability in nectar secretion rates may benefit both partners in this pollination mutualism.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology