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.

"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 October 23, 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 October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) — How to make a pumpkin pom-pom. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — The pair of rare white northern rhinos bring hope for their species as only six remain in the world. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Bear Cub Strolls Through Oregon Drug Store

Raw: Bear Cub Strolls Through Oregon Drug Store

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) — Shoppers at an Oregon drug store were surprised by a bear cub scurrying down the aisles this past weekend. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Family Pleads for Pet Pig to Stay at Home

Family Pleads for Pet Pig to Stay at Home

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) — The Johnson family lost their battle with the Chesterfield County, Virginia Planning Commission to allow Tucker, their pet pig, to stay in their home, but refuse to let the board keep Tucker away. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
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