Reproductive ecology of Agave colorata: the importance of nectar-feeding bats and the germination consequences of self-pollination

Dalia Berenice Borbón-Palomares, Flora Laborin-Sivirian, Clara Tinoco-Ojanguren, M. Cristina Peñalba, Ivonne Reyes-Ortega, Francisco Molina-Freaner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Agave colorata is a paniculate agave distributed along the migratory route of the nectar-feeding bat Leptonycteris yerbabuenae. In this paper, we evaluate the importance of nectar-feeding bats in the reproduction of A. colorata in a population in Sonora, Mexico, and describe the germination consequences of self-pollination. We estimated abundance using five plots and set pollination treatments to evaluate the importance of bats. We recorded 14.8 ± 6.8 plants/400 m2, with a bimodal size distribution. Flowers are protandrous and visited mainly (> 20 visits/plant/30 min) by L. yerbabuenae. Pollination exclusion experiments showed that flowers excluded from diurnal visitors had maximum fruit set values (0.49 ± 0.42), while the autonomous self-pollination treatment had the lowest value (0.03 ± 0.06). Similarly, the greatest number of viable seeds per fruit was recorded in the diurnal exclusion treatment, while the greatest number of empty seeds was observed in the self-pollination treatment. Fruit set values among untreated plants varied from 32 to 54%, with a mean value of 41.8%. Seeds derived from self-pollination had a narrower window of opportunity for germination compared to seeds derived from nocturnal pollination. Self-pollinated seeds had lower germination, rate of germination or lag time in response to light, osmotic potential and heat shock treatments, compared to other pollination treatments, revealing an inbreeding cost. Overall, our results show that L. yerbabuenae is the likely major pollinator of the studied A. colorata population. However, under pollinator limitation A. colorata may produce seeds by autonomous self-pollination, at a cost expressed as lower germination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)927-939
Number of pages13
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

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© 2018, Springer Nature B.V.


  • Agave germination
  • Agave pollen
  • Bat pollination
  • Sonoran Desert


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