Tag Archives: pollinators

Bees behaving badly: Thievery and social learning in invertebrates

Over hundreds of millions of years, pollinators and many plant species have coevolved intricate mutualisms through which both partners benefit – plants see their genetic material dispersed to new mates, and pollinators receive rewards in the form of nectar. Different species have evolved floral morphologies that restrict floral reward access to particular pollinator species; for example, flowers with long corollas have rewards that are accessible only to long-tongued pollinators. The function of different floral morphologies is, in part, to ensure that pollinators that gain access to a plant’s nectar are also contributing to the plant’s reproductive success. However, the phrase “cheaters never prosper” doesn’t really apply to natural systems, and many pollinators “rob” nectar by drilling holes in a plant’s corolla. As is often the case, some of the first descriptions of nectar robbing can be traced back to Charles Darwin, who, in 1872, was the first to suggest the nectar robing was a socially-learned behavior.

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