Infertile seeds of Yucca schottii: A beneficial role for the plant in the yucca-yucca moth mutualism?

Yaron Ziv, Judith L. Bronstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The yucca-yucca moth interaction is a classic case of obligate mutualism. Female moths pollinate and oviposit in the gynoecium of the flower; however, maturing larvae eat a fraction of the developing seeds. We studied within-fruit distributions of four seed types (fertile, infertile, eaten and uneaten seeds) in order to evaluate costs and benefits in a Yucca schottii population in southeastern Arizona. We focused on how the spatial arrangement of seeds affected larval behaviour and, hence, the costs of the mutualism to the yucca. Infertile seeds were distributed throughout both infested and uninfested locules. Additionally, moth larvae feeding in a single locule preferred fertile seeds and even avoided infertile seeds and left the fruit significantly more often when they encountered infertile seeds. We suggest that, regardless of the cause of infertile seeds, they function as blocking units within seed locules and therefore reduce seed predation by moth larvae. We also suggest that, together with certain other fruit traits, the presence of infertile seeds promotes the evolutionary stability of this pollination mutualism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-76
Number of pages14
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Obligate mutualism
  • Pollination
  • Resource limitation
  • Seed predation
  • Yucca-yucca moth interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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