Late Lunch Talk: Pollinator Parasites and the Evolution of Plant-Pollinator Interactions
Late Lunch Talk by Bertrand Fouks from CEES
The main selective force driving floral evolution and diversity is plant-pollinator interactions. Pollinators use floral signals and indirect cues from other pollinators to assess flower reward, and the ensuing flower choice has major implications for plant fitness. While pollinator behaviors have been extensively described, the effects of behavioral immunity (altered behaviors to reduce parasites impact on host) on pollinator foraging decisions and floral evolution have been largely overlooked. Growing evidence of the transmission of parasites through the shared-use of flowers by pollinators demonstrates the importance of behavioral immunity to pollinator health. During foraging bouts, pollinators can protect themselves against parasites through self-medication, avoidance, and grooming. Because they affect flower choice and pollen dispersal, they ultimately impact flower fitness. In light of recent evidence of immune behaviors in foraging pollinators and its impact on flower visitation, how pollinator parasites impact plant-pollinator interactions. Do pollinator parasites impact significantly plant fitness? If so, can plant adapt floral traits to reduce the burden of pollinator parasites on their fitness? I will present my research plan to answer those questions and will propose future research directions to better integrate the role of pollinator parasites into pollinator optimal foraging, plant-pollinator interactions, floral diversity, and agricultural practices.