Costs of deception and learned resistance in deceptive interactions

Marinus L. de Jager, Allan G. Ellis

Abstract

The costs that species suffer when deceived are expected to drive learned resistance, although this relationship has seldom been studied experimentally. Flowers that elicit mating behaviour from male insects by mimicking conspecific females provide an ideal system for such investigation. Here, we explore interactions between a sexually deceptive daisy with multiple floral forms that vary in deceptiveness, and the male flies that pollinate it. We show that male pollinators are negatively impacted by the interaction, suffering potential mating costs in terms of their ability and time taken to locate genuine females within deceptive inflorescences. The severity of these costs is determined by the amount of mating behaviour elicited by deceptive inflorescences. However, inexperienced male flies exhibit the ability to learn to discriminate the most deceptive inflorescences as female mimics and subsequently reduce the amount of mating behaviour they exhibit on them with increased exposure. Experienced males, which interact with sexually deceptive forms naturally, exhibit similar patterns of reduced mating behaviour on deceptive inflorescences in multiple populations, indicating that pollinator learning is widespread. As sexually deceptive plants are typically dependent on the elicitation of mating behaviour from male pollinators for pollination, this may result in antagonistic coevolution within these systems.

  • Received October 31, 2013.
  • Accepted January 3, 2014.
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