Division of labour within flowers: heteranthery, a floral strategy to reconcile contrasting pollen fates

J Evol Biol. 2009 Apr;22(4):828-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2009.01693.x.


In many nectarless flowering plants, pollen serves as both the carrier of male gametes and as food for pollinators. This can generate an evolutionary conflict if the use of pollen as food by pollinators reduces the number of gametes available for cross-fertilization. Heteranthery, the production of two or more stamen types by individual flowers reduces this conflict by allowing different stamens to specialize in 'pollinating' and 'feeding' functions. We used experimental studies of Solanum rostratum (Solanaceae) and theoretical models to investigate this 'division of labour' hypothesis. Flight cage experiments with pollinating bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) demonstrated that although feeding anthers are preferentially manipulated by bees, pollinating anthers export more pollen to other flowers. Evolutionary stability analysis of a model of pollination by pollen consumers indicated that heteranthery evolves when bees consume more pollen than should optimally be exchanged for visitation services, particularly when pollinators adjust their visitation according to the amount of pollen collected.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Biological Evolution
  • Flowers / anatomy & histology*
  • Flowers / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Pollen / physiology*
  • Solanum / anatomy & histology
  • Solanum / physiology*