Microfungi inhabiting floral nectar offer unique opportunities for the study of microbial distribution and the role that dispersal limitation may play in generating distribution patterns. Flowers are well-replicated habitat islands, among which the microbes disperse via pollinators. This metapopulation system allows for investigation of microbial distribution at multiple spatial scales. We examined the distribution of the yeast, Metschnikowia reukaufii, and other fungal species found in the floral nectar of the sticky monkey flower, Mimulus aurantiacus, a hummingbird-pollinated shrub, at a California site. We found that the frequency of nectar-inhabiting microfungi on a given host plant was not significantly correlated with light availability, nectar volume or the percent cover of M. aurantiacus around the plant, but was significantly correlated with the location of the host plant and loosely correlated with the density of flowers on the plant. These results suggest that dispersal limitation caused by spatially non-random foraging by pollinators may be a primary factor driving the observed distribution pattern.
Belisle M, Peay KG, Fukami T. 2012. Flowers as islands: spatial distribution of nectar-inhabiting microfungi among plants of Mimulus aurantiacus, a hummingbird-pollinated shrub. Microbial Ecology 63: 711-718.
Year Published: 2012