Nectar-living yeasts of a tropical host plant community: diversity and effects on community-wide floral nectar traits

PeerJ. 2017 Jul 14:5:e3517. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3517. eCollection 2017.


We characterize the diversity of nectar-living yeasts of a tropical host plant community at different hierarchical sampling levels, measure the associations between yeasts and nectariferous plants, and measure the effect of yeasts on nectar traits. Using a series of hierarchically nested sampling units, we extracted nectar from an assemblage of host plants that were representative of the diversity of life forms, flower shapes, and pollinator types in the tropical area of Yucatan, Mexico. Yeasts were isolated from single nectar samples; their DNA was identified, the yeast cell density was estimated, and the sugar composition and concentration of nectar were quantified using HPLC. In contrast to previous studies from temperate regions, the diversity of nectar-living yeasts in the plant community was characterized by a relatively high number of equally common species with low dominance. Analyses predict highly diverse nectar yeast communities in a relatively narrow range of tropical vegetation, suggesting that the diversity of yeasts will increase as the number of sampling units increases at the level of the species, genera, and botanical families of the hosts. Significant associations between specific yeast species and host plants were also detected; the interaction between yeasts and host plants impacted the effect of yeast cell density on nectar sugars. This study provides an overall picture of the diversity of nectar-living yeasts in tropical host plants and suggests that the key factor that affects the community-wide patterns of nectar traits is not nectar chemistry, but rather the type of yeasts interacting with host plants.

Keywords: Correspondence analysis; Diversity; Flowers; Hill numbers; Nectar sugars; Pollinators; Species richness; Yucatan-Mexico.

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología through CB-2007-01 program (grant number 80031), the Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (grant number CGL2010-15964) and the Junta de Andalucía (grant number P09-RNM-4517). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.