Characterization of Sugar Diversity in Floral and Extra Floral Nectar from the Coastal Coral Tree (Erythrina caffra Thunb.) in Southern California
Authors:Elizabeth Dawkins, Renee Maser, Kenny Morales
Mentor:Victor Carmona, Associate Professor of Biology, Loyola Marymount University
Characterization of Sugar Diversity in Floral and Extra Floral Nectar from the Coastal Coral Tree (Erythrina caffra Thunb.) in Southern California Authors: Renee Maser, Loyola Marymount University, Kenny Morales, Loyola Marymount University, Elizabeth Dawkins, Loyola Marymount Unversity Mentor: Dr. Victor Carmona, Biology Department, Loyola Marymount University The Coastal Coral Tree (Erythrina caffra Thunb.) produces floral nectar (FN) that serves to attract pollinating insects, but also secretes nectar from extra-floral (EFN) glands that serves to attract predatory insects, such as ants. While studies on myrmecophytes (i.e. specialized plants that attract and interact with ants) have primarily focused on interspecific evaluations of EFN chemistry, the Coastal Coral tree offers an opportunity to contrast intraspecific nectar chemistry with differing evolutionary and ecological functions. We hypothesized that the richness of (molecular) sugar species, relative concentrations, and diversity of sugars in FN and foliar EFN would diverge due to differences in the ecological role of the two types of nectar. High performance liquid chromatography with refractive index detection was used to identify the richness of sugar species (based on retention time), measure the relative concentrations, and evaluate the diversity of sugars in FN and foliar EFN secretions. We detected sugar species unique to each gland type and report significant differences in the relative concentration of one sugar species common to both gland types. While the mean diversity index of sugars was similar for both gland types, the diversity of foliar EFN sugars was significantly more variable than that of FN sugars. The composition of FN showed little variation, and was reflective of its fundamental role in plant reproduction. Foliar EFN, however, demonstrated the variability expected of a context-dependent myrmecophyte that interacts with a facultative ant species assemblage across a mosaic of abiotic and biotic conditions.