Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Flower's bellows organ blasts pollen at bird pollinators

Date:
July 3, 2014
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
A small tree or shrub found in mountainous Central and South American rainforests has a most unusual relationship with the birds that pollinate its flowers, according to a new study. The plant known as Axinaea offers up its male reproductive organs as a tempting and nutritious food source for the birds. As the birds seize those bulbous stamens with their beaks, they are blasted with pollen by the flowers' complex 'bellows' organs.

A Sooty-capped bush tanager (Chlorospingus pileatus) holding a freshly removed stamen from Axinaea costaricensis in its beak. Flowers of A. costaricensis where stamens have been removed are visible in the background
Credit: Current Biology, Dellinger et al.

A small tree or shrub found in mountainous Central and South American rainforests has a most unusual relationship with the birds that pollinate its flowers, according to a study reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 3. The plant known as Axinaea offers up its male reproductive organs as a tempting and nutritious food source for the birds. As the birds seize those bulbous stamens with their beaks, they are blasted with pollen by the flowers' complex "bellows" organs. The birds then deliver that pollen to receptive female floral organs as they forage on.

Related Articles


"This unique and highly complex pollination system is completely new to science and provides another example of the intricate relationships that have evolved between flowers and their pollinators," says Agnes Dellinger of the University of Vienna. "The majority of bird-pollinated flowers offer nectar as a reward, and in the rare known cases involving food bodies, these reward tissues are restricted to the outer, sterile floral organs and are never found on reproductive organs."

Food bodies situated on male reproductive organs are otherwise only known from beetle-pollinated flowers, Dellinger adds. There is no other known example among plants of such a precise and anatomically distinct bellows organ.

Axinaea flowers appear in clusters of a few to more than 20 flowers, with pink, red, yellow, or orange petals that usually don't open completely. The stamens of those flowers stand out based on their contrasting colors and conspicuous, bulbous appendages. Something else about the stamens also piqued the researchers' curiosity: one or more of these stamens was almost always found missing in the flowers the researchers observed in the field or on herbarium specimens.

The researchers learned what had happened to those stamens -- and just how remarkably unusual Axinaea flowers actually are -- through a combination of pollination experiments, video monitoring, and detailed analyses of stamen structure and composition. They have observed multiple bird species, mostly tanagers, enjoying Axinaea food bodies and acting as pollinators in the process.

The findings may hold general lessons about the evolution of plants and their pollinators, the researchers say, noting that the vast majority of Axinaea's close relatives depend on bees for pollination.

"Only about 100 of the 5,000 or so species in the family Melastomataceae are known to produce nectar and to be pollinated by other insects or vertebrates," says Jürg Schönenberger, senior author of the study, also at the University of Vienna. "In the evolution of these species, including Axinaea, pollinator shifts in combination with changes in the floral morphology must have occurred."

Those evolutionary shifts may be related in part to growth at higher elevations, a pattern that would seem to support an earlier idea that birds may be more-efficient pollinators than bees at higher altitudes. The researchers say they now plan to study such pollinator shifts and their connection to ecogeographical changes, such as the uplift of the Andes Mountains, in greater detail.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Agnes S. Dellinger, Darin S. Penneys, Yannick M. Staedler, Lena Fragner, Wolfram Weckwerth, Jürg Schönenberger. A Specialized Bird Pollination System with a Bellows Mechanism for Pollen Transfer and Staminal Food Body Rewards. Current Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.05.056

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Flower's bellows organ blasts pollen at bird pollinators." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140703125533.htm>.
Cell Press. (2014, July 3). Flower's bellows organ blasts pollen at bird pollinators. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140703125533.htm
Cell Press. "Flower's bellows organ blasts pollen at bird pollinators." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140703125533.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) — Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) — The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) — A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins