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Contrasting effects of yeasts and bacteria on floral nectar traits.


Background and Aims:Flowers can be highly variable in nectar volume and chemical composition, even within the same plant, but the causes of this variation are not fully understood. One potential cause is nectar-colonizing bacteria and yeasts, but experimental tests isolating their effects on wildflowers are largely lacking. This study examines the effects of dominant species of yeasts and bacteria on the hummingbird-pollinated shrub, Mimulus aurantiacus, in California. Methods:Wildflowers were inoculated with field-relevant titres of either the yeast Metschnikowia reukaufii or the bacterium Neokomagataea sp. (formerly Gluconobacter sp.), both isolated from M. aurantiacus nectar. Newly opened flowers were bagged, inoculated, harvested after 3 d and analysed for microbial abundance, nectar volume, and sugar and amino acid concentration and composition. Key Results:Yeast inoculation reduced amino acid concentration and altered amino acid composition, but had no significant effect on nectar volume or sugar composition. In contrast, bacterial inoculation increased amino acid concentration, enhanced the proportion of nectar sugars comprised by monosaccharides, and reduced nectar volume. Conclusions:The results presented suggest that microbial inhabitants of floral nectar can make nectar characteristics variable among flowers through divergent effects of yeasts and bacteria on nectar chemistry and availability, probably modifying plant-pollinator interactions.

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