Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sundews just want to be loved

18.08.2010
Why do some insect-eating plants like sundews keep their flowers so far away from their traps? New research suggests that it isn't a clever trick to keep pollinators safe, it's about getting pollinated

Sex can be complicated at the best of times, but plants have an extra difficulty. If you're a plant who relies on insects to pollinate your flowers and reproduce, you will want your flowerstalks to be long. That way your flowers are on display to insects above the crowd. But if your stalk is too long, you'll stand out to herbivores, and you flower will end up as someone's lunch.

It used to be thought that carnivorous plants like Sundews had the opposite problem. They reproduce better if they avoid eating insects that pollinate them, so a long stalk prevents an unfortunate meal. Simply looking at a plant, it's impossible to tell if the stalks evolved for sex or safety, but Bruce Anderson at the University of Stellenbosch has now found an answer to be published in the October issue of the Annals of Botany.

He examined two Sundews, Drosera cistiflora, which has a long stalk above its rosette of traps and Drosera pauciflora, which is more upright and has a shorter flower stalk. Both plants attract the same pollinators, so Anderson reasoned if a longer stalk is safer, D. pauciflora should accidentally catch more pollinators in its traps. To test his idea he observed the pollination of 500 plants of each species. Then he examined a sample of the traps to see what they had caught. Anderson said: "The pollinators all tended to be quite large, over 5mm. Most of them were monkey beetles. But the traps had a different catch. It's harder to say what many of them were exactly, because the Sundews left their bodies in poor condition, but they were small. Most were less than 2mm long. Only one plant had caught a pollinator. Statistically the length of the flower stems made no difference to the safety of the pollinators."

"But just because the stems didn't affect safety, it doesn't automatically follow that the other explanation, attracting pollinators, must be right by default. So I tested that too."

Flowers were cut from D. pauciflora and placed in test tubes. Some were set so the flowers were at normal height, while the other test tubes were buried so that the flower was barely above ground level. Anserson said: "Doing this meant there were few variables in the experiment. The flowers were identical. The only difference was their height. This way it's possible to simulate how well a Sundew that hadn't evolved a long stem could attract insects."

The results were emphatic. The taller flowers had ten times the number of visitors than the short flowers.

Anderson said: "There have been a few people who've suggested that the flower stalks are for attracting pollinators. However, the standard explanation in most textbooks is that the stems are to protect pollinators. It's a good story. It sounds like the kind of elegant solution that evolution comes up with. Now we have the hard data from these experiments and it shows that explanation is wrong. It's not about food, it's about sex. Sundews want to improve their chances of pollination and maximise their reproductive success."

Dr. David Frost | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.le.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
23.01.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>