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Articles by J. D. Thomson
Total Records ( 2 ) for J. D. Thomson
  K Ohashi and J. D. Thomson

Trapline foraging (repeated sequential visits to a series of feeding locations) has been often observed in pollinators collecting nectar or pollen from flowers. Although field studies on bumble-bees and hummingbirds have clarified fundamental aspects of this behaviour, trapline foraging still poses several difficult questions from the perspectives of both animals and plants. These questions include whether and how traplining improves foraging performance, how animals develop traplines with accumulating foraging experience, and how traplining affects pollen flow or plant reproduction.


First, we review our previous work performed by using computer simulations and indoor flight-cage experiments with bumble-bees foraging from arrays of automated feeders. Our findings include the following: (1) traplining benefits foragers that are competing for resources that replenish in a decelerating way, (2) traplining is a learned behaviour that develops over a period of hours and (3) the establishment of traplines could be hampered by spatial configuration of plants such as zigzags. Second, using a simulation model linking pollinator movement and pollen transfer, we consider how service by pollinators with different foraging patterns (searchers or trapliners) would affect pollen flow. Traplining increases mating distance and mate diversity, and reduces ‘iterogamy’ (self-pollination caused by return visits) at the population level. Furthermore, increased visitation rates can have opposite effects on the reproductive success of a plant, depending on whether the visitors are traplining or searching. Finally, we discuss possible consequences of traplining for plants in the light of new experimental work and modelling.


We suggest that trapline foraging by pollinators increases variation among plant populations in genetic diversity, inbreeding depression and contributions of floral traits to plant fitness, which should in turn affect the rates and directions of floral evolution. More theoretical and empirical studies are needed to clarify possible outcomes of such a neglected side of pollination.

  N Muchhala , A Caiza , J. C Vizuete and J. D. Thomson
  Background and Aims

A number of different types of flower-visiting animals coexist in any given habitat. What evolutionary and ecological factors influence the subset of these that a given plant relies on for its pollination? Addressing this question requires a mechanistic understanding of the importance of different potential pollinators in terms of visitation rate (pollinator ‘quantity’) and effectiveness at transferring pollen (pollinator ‘quality’) is required. While bat-pollinated plants typically are highly specialized to bats, there are some instances of bat-pollinated plants that use other pollinators as well. These generalized exceptions tend to occur in habitats where bat ‘quantity’ is poor due to low or fluctuating bat densities.


Aphelandra acanthus occurs in tropical cloud forests with relatively high densities of bat visitors, yet displays a mix of floral syndrome characteristics, suggesting adaptation to multiple types of pollinators. To understand its pollination system better, aspects of its floral phenology and the ‘quantity’ and ‘quality’ components of pollination by its floral visitors are studied here.

Key Results

Flowers were found to open and senesce throughout the day and night, although anther dehiscence was restricted to the late afternoon and night. Videotaping reveals that flowers are visited nocturnally by bats and moths, and diurnally by hummingbirds. Analysis of pollen deposition shows that bats regularly transfer large amounts of conspecific pollen, while hummingbirds occasionally transfer some pollen, and moths rarely do so.


Hummingbirds and bats were comparable in terms of pollination ‘quantity’, while bats were the most effective in terms of ‘quality’. Considering these components together, bats are responsible for approx. 70 % of A. acanthus pollination. However, bats also transferred remarkably large amounts of foreign pollen along with the conspecific grains (three of four grains were foreign). It is suggested that the negative effects of interspecific pollen transfer may decrease bat ‘quality’ for A. acanthus, and thus select for generalization on multiple pollinators instead of specialization on bats.

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