Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pollinators: aRT iN mOTION

Have a look at the breathtaking video below of gorgeous animals, blessed with crazy specialized tongues, wings, fuzzy faces and bodies, and other features, feeding on nectar and helping flowering plants reproduce.

They are pollinators, and in their daily behavior, they are amazing:

You already know that bees pollinate wildflowers and a majority of human food crops, but butterflies, birds, and bats are also specially designed for reaching into flowers, messing around in the pollen, and finding nectar.

Pollinators help not just most of our crop plants, but over 80% of the whole world's flowering plants, to reproduce. Most crop plants eaten by humans, including grains and seeds used for oils, need pollinators to reproduce. Without these little guys, we and many other animals wouldn't have much to eat or to look at!

Nice of them, but while their act of pollination – moving pollen from the male parts of a flower to the female parts of either the same plant (called self-pollination) or a different plant (called cross-pollination) - helps the plant, the animals really just want to eat the nectar or pollen, not transport it.

What are these flying Don Juans looking for? They each seek some combination of color, smell, and shape of a flower: here you can compare these combinations to see how pollinators choose their desired flowers.

Why do pollinators like different types of flowers?

Wouldn't it be easier if they all ate the same type of flower?

Actually, no – plants have evolved differing flowering times that occur throughout the growing season to decrease competition for animal pollinators and to provide the pollinators with a constant supply of food.

Works for everybody.

Their specialization helps their survival (their fitness) and just by doing their thing, they help ours too.

the fuzzy face and long tongue of bees help them collect pollen
and transfer it among male and female plant parts.
photo: Bob Peterson, Wikimedia Commons

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