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Vereecken, Nicolas J.
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Intraspecific size shifts in generalist bumblebees and flowers lead to low functional consequences
Abstract : "Body size is a trait that can affect plant–pollinator interaction efficiency and plant reproductive success. We explored the impact of intraspecific size shifts on the interactions between pollinators and flowering plants under controlled conditions. We considered two development conditions leading to the production of large and small individual flowers of Borago officinalis and Echium plantagineum. We also used the natural variability of worker size within bumblebee colonies to isolate small and large workers. We performed a fully crossed experiment with the two flower sizes of each plant species and the two sizes of bumblebee workers. Our results show that the size of both partners did not affect bee foraging behavior in most of the evaluated parameters and both bee sizes were equally efficient in depositing pollen. Significant differences were found only in pollen deposition across the life of a flower in small flowers of B. officinalis, with the greatest quantity of pollen deposited by small bees. We did not find a relationship between pollinator size and plant fitness. Our results suggest that generalist plant–pollinator interactions may be resilient to future potential mismatches in the size of the partners but remain to be tested if they are still resilient under the new environmental conditions resulting from global changes."