The interaction between yucca moths (Tegeticula spp., Incurvariidae) and yuccas (Yucca spp., Agavaceae) is an obligate pollination/seed predation mutualism in which adult female yucca moths pollinate yuccas, and yucca moth larvae feed on yucca seeds. In this paper we document that individual yucca moths, which are capable of acting as mutualists, facultatively "cheat" by ovipositing in yucca pistils without attempting to transfer pollen. Additionally, a high proportion of flowers are unlikely to receive pollen even when pollination is attempted, because many yucca moths carry little or no pollen. The probability of occurrence of non-mutualistic behaviour is not affected by the amount of pollen a moth carries: moths with full pollen loads are just as likely to act non-mutualistically as moths carrying little or no pollen. We propose four hypotheses that could explain facultative non-mutualistic behaviour in yucca moths.
- Yucca moths
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics