Ecological relationship between floral thermogenesis and pollination in Nelumbo lutea (Nelumbonaceae)

Gregg Dieringer, R. Leticia Cabrera, Mohammad Mottaleb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Premise of study: Floral thermogenesis is an unusual floral trait with a well-documented physiological process, and yet, there is limited understanding of how this trait influences plant reproduction. The current study was undertaken to gain a better understanding of how floral thermogenesis in Nelumbo lutea impacts pollinator attraction and consequent plant reproduction. Methods: We conducted field studies on floral thermogenesis and thermoregulation, flower sexual development, floral visitation patterns, breeding system, pollen transfer dynamics, and floral scent production. Key results: The most abundant visitors to the thermoregulatory flowers included the Phoridae (Diptera), Chrysomelidae (Co-leoptera), and Hymenoptera. Chrysomelid beetles, particularly Diabrotica, were frequent visitors to both first-day female- and second-day bisexual-phase flowers, while phorid flies were most common in bisexual-phase flowers. Pollen transfer experiments indicated that Diabrotica was equally effective in depositing pollen on stigmas, as were the less frequent, but pollen-loaded halictid bees. Conclusions: Flowers received a taxonomically wide assemblage of floral visitors and appear adapted to attract beetles, primarily Chrysomelidae and medium-sized bees. This study is the first to provide strong support that beetles can comprise the dominant portion of floral visitors and are as effective in pollen transfer as bees. Thermogenesis aids in dispersing the main floral scent component-1,4-dimethoxybenzene-attracting both chrysomelids and bees, while thermoregulation causes chrysomelid beetles to actively seek out new flowers for evening residence. This search behavior likely results in chrysomelids affecting cross-pollination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-364
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Beetle pollination
  • Chrysomelidae
  • Halictidae
  • Nelumbo lutea
  • Nelumbonaceae
  • Phoridae
  • Thermogenesis
  • Thermoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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