Predators can have strong indirect effects on plants by consuming or altering the behavior of their antagonists (e.g. herbivores) and mutualists (e.g. pollinators). However, little is known about the consequences of this predation for the evolution of plant traits. To determine the indirect effects of predators on the evolution of floral traits, I will examine interactions among the native wildflower great blue lobelia, its bumblebee pollinators, and predacious dragonflies. I predict that dragonflies, by consuming and/or altering the behavior of bumblebees, will decrease the amount of pollen deposited on lobelia flowers. My expectation is that this decrease in pollen deposition will result in stronger natural selection on floral traits that attract pollinators and increase their foraging efficiency. Predators are declining globally. My research, by determining the indirect effects of predators on selection on floral traits, will enable us to better predict the long-term evolutionary consequences of predator decline.
Principal Investigator: Christina Caruso