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Sympatric plant species with similar flowering phenologies and floral morphologies may compete for pollination, and as a consequence potentially influence each other's reproductive success and mating system. Two likely competitors are Mimulus ringens and Lobelia siphilitica, which co-occur in wet meadows of central and eastern North America, produce blue zygomorphic flowers, and share several species of bumble bee pollinators. To test for effects of competition for pollination, we planted experimental arrays of Mimulus ringens, each consisting of genets with unique combinations of homozygous marker genotypes. In two arrays we planted mixtures of Mimulus and Lobelia. and in two additional arrays we planted Mimulus without a competitor for pollination. Bumble bee pollinators frequently moved between Mimulus and Lobelia flowers in the mixed-species arrays, with 42% of plant-to-plant movements being interspecific transitions. Pollinator movements between species were associated with a reduction in the amount of conspecific pollen arriving on Mimulus stigmas. The presence of Lobelia led to a significant 37% reduction in the mean number of Mimulus seeds per fruit. In addition, Mimulus had a significantly lower rate of outcrossing in the mixed-species arrays (0.43) than in the "pure" arrays (0.63). This is the first study to demonstrate that competition for pollination directly influences outcrossing rates. Our work suggests that in self-compatible populations with genetic load, competition for pollination may not only reduce seed quantity, but may also lower seed quality.

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Copyright 2005 by the Ecological Society of America

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