Brodie lab grad student Sarah McPeek just published the first paper from her graduate work in American Naturalist. The paper explores an evolutionary consumer-resource based theory of plant-pollinator mutualisms in which the plant’s nectar provisioning to the pollinator has two indirect effects on the plant’s reproduction: 1) feeding pollinators causes them to forage from the plants more, thus transferring more pollen in the process and 2) feeding pollinators causes their population to grow at a faster rate, thus growing the pool of available pollinators. The model finds that conditions that impede either the plant’s or the pollinator’s population growth select for the evolution of higher nectar provisioning by the plant. This work predicts that ecological conditions affecting the population dynamics of plants and pollinators will also modulate natural selection on resource provisioning.
McPeek, S. J., Bronstein, J. L. & McPeek, M. A. 2021. The Evolution of Resource Provisioning in Pollination Mutualisms. American Naturalist 198(4): 441–459.