Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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This research first evaluated levels and type of herbivory experienced by Centrosema virginianum plants in their native habitat and how florivory affected the pollinator activity. I found that populations of C. virginianum in two pine rockland habitat fragments experienced higher herbivory levels (15% and 22%) compared with plants in the protected study site (8.6%). I found that bees (Hymenoptera) pollinated butterfly pea. Furthermore, I found that florivores had a negative effect in the pollinators visitation rates and therefore in the seed set of the population.
I then conducted a study using a greenhouse population of C. virginianum. I applied artificial herbivory treatments: control, mild herbivory and severe herbivory. Flower size, pollen produced, ovules produced and seeds produced were negatively affected by herbivory. I did not find difference in nectar volume and quality by flowers among treatments. Surprisingly, severely damaged plants produced flowers with larger pollen than those from mildly damaged and undamaged plants. Results showed that plants tolerated mild and severe herbivory with 6% and 17% reduction of total fitness components, respectively. However, the investment of resources was not equisexual.
A comparison in the ability of siring seeds between large and small pollen was necessary to establish the biological consequence of size in pollen performance. I found that fruits produced an average of 18.7±1.52 and 17.7±1.50 from large and small pollen fertilization respectively. These findings supported a pollen number-size trade-off in plants under severe herbivory treatments. As far as I know, this result has not previously been reported.
Lastly, I tested how herbivory influenced seed abortion patterns in plants, examining how resources are allocated on different regions within fruits under artificial herbivory treatments. I found that self-fertilized fruits had greater seed abortion rates than cross-fertilized fruits. The proportion of seeds aborted was lower in the middle regions of the fruits in cross-fertilized fruits, producing more vigorous progeny. Self-fertilized fruits did not show patterns of seedling vigor. I also found that early abortion was higher closer to the peduncular end of the fruits. Position of seeds within fruits could be important in the seed dispersion mechanism characteristic of this species.
Cardel, Yuria, "Linking herbivory and pollination : costs and selection implications in Centrosema virginianum Bentham (Fabaceae: papilionoideae)" (2004). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2042.
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