The invisible communities of nectar: How yeast and bacteria alter nectar characteristics

  • Anthony Schmitt


Plant - pollinator relationships are based off a binary reward system. Plants present pollinators with nectar as an energetic reward, while pollinators transfer genetic material to help plants achieve full reproductive success. The constituents of nectar play a crucial role in facilitating this mutual relationship. A new area of research is emerging that may change the way biologists view this binary system; it may no longer be a two-way interaction. Microorganisms - yeasts and bacteria - have been found to inhabit nectars across a wide geographic range and across a large range of plant species. These microorganisms change the characteristics of nectar in such a way to can alter pollinator behavior. For example, yeasts and bacteria can modify the sugar composition and concentration of nectar. Sugars in nectar are a chief reward for pollinator visitation. This review examines the new field of research presented by these microbes by breaking down changes in nectar as a result of microbial communities. The implications presented by these findings may significantly change the way biologists view plant-pollinator interactions as research continues to develop.