Red Anemone Guild Flowers as Focal Places for Mating and Feeding of Mediterranean Glaphyrid Beetles

Tamar Keasar, Ally R. Harar, Guido Sabatinelli, Denis Keith, Amots Dafni, Ofrit Shavit, Assaph Zylbertal and Avi Shmida

Several species of glaphyrid beetles forage and mate on Mediterranean red flowers. In red anemones and poppies in Israel, female beetles occupy only bowl-shaped a subset of the flowers, do not aggregate, and are hidden below the petals. This raises the question how males find their mates. The possibility that males and females orient to similar plant- generated cues, thereby increasing their mate encounter prospects, was investigated. Beetle attraction to red models increased with display area in previous studies. Choice tests with flowers and with models indicate that both male and female beetles prefer large displays to smaller ones. In anemones, beetles rest, feed and mate mainly on male- phase flowers, which are larger than female- phase flowers. Poppies that contain beetles are larger than the population average. These findings support the hypothesis that males and females meet by orienting to large red displays. Corolla size correlates with pollen reward in both plant species, suggesting that visits to large flowers also yield foraging benefits. Male beetles often jump rapidly among adjacent flowers. In contrast to the preference for large flowers by stationary individuals, these jumps sequences are random with respect to flower (in anemone) and size (in poppy). They may enable males to detect females at sex-phase close range. We hypothesize that males employ a mixed mate- searching strategy, combining orientation to floral signals and to female- produced cues. The glaphyrids' preference for large flowers may have selected for extraordinarily large displays within the "red anemone" pollination guild of the Levant.

July, 2009
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