Floral organs act as environmental filters and interact with pollinators to structure the yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) floral microbiome

Authors: María Rebolleda Gómez and Tia‐Lynn Ashman

Assembly of microbial communities is the result of neutral and selective processes. However, the relative importance of these processes is still debated. Microbial communities of flowers, in particular, have gained recent attention because of their potential impact to plant fitness and plant‐pollinator interactions. However, the role of selection and dispersal in the assembly of these communities remains poorly understood. Here, we evaluated the role of pollinator‐mediated dispersal on the contribution of neutral and selective processes in the assembly of floral microbiomes of the yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus). We sampled floral organs from flowers in the presence and absence of pollinators within five different serpentine seeps in CA and obtained 16S amplicon data on the epiphytic bacterial communities. Consistent with strong microenvironment selection within flowers we observed significant differences in community composition across floral organs and only a small effect of geographic distance. Pollinator exposure affected the contribution of environmental selection and depended on the rate and intimacy of interactions with flower visitors. This study provides evidence of the importance of dispersal and within‐flower heterogeneity in shaping epiphytic bacterial communities of flowers, and highlights the complex interplay between pollinator behaviour, environmental selection and additional abiotic factors in shaping the epiphytic bacterial communities of flowers.

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