LIFE SCIENCE

Studies have found that insects of the family Mushrooms are pollinator “vectors” of plants of the genus Cholanaceae


Recently, the reporter learned from the Kunming Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences that the team of Wang Hong, a researcher at the institute, and Ren Zongxin, an associate researcher, conducted pollination ecology research on the orchid genus orchid distributed in the northern edge of China’s tropical region. The study found that the insects of the family Mushroomidae are pollinators of biconvex orchid and Shanlinxi orchid, which is the first discovery in the tropical and subtropical regions of the northern hemisphere, and the relevant research results are published in BMC Plant Biology.

The formation and maintenance of the extremely high species diversity of orchids is driven by a variety of factors, the most important of which are a variety of pollination mechanisms. One of the important evolutionary trends in the pollination system among the wide variety of deceptive orchids is the use of tiny dipteran insects for pollination. The pollinated orchids of these small dipterans are mainly concentrated in the neotropical regions of the arbolanaceae axillary orchid subfamily and the Rhododendronidae of Australia, which are extremely rich in species and pollinated by a variety of tiny flies. There are also some orchids in the two-tailed orchid family, using flies or mushrooms that are between 2-5 mm long and feed on fungi or lay eggs on fungi as pollinators. These orchids are characterized by a fishy smell and a gill-like stripe on the lips that may mimic fungi, such as orchids of the genus Little Dragon Orchid.

The genus belongs to the Orchid family, Orchidaceae, Diplodocus, and Pinus orchid. It is found in the Himalayas to Southeast Asia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Australia and some of its islands, with China being the northern boundary of the genus. There are about 140 species in the genus, of which 6 are distributed in China. Growing in a humid environment, the flowers have mushroom-like lip flaps and have been speculated to be mimetic fungi. But research into the pollination ecology of pollinators has remained sporadic for decades since the hypothesis was proposed, and with the exception of a handful of photographs taken by enthusiasts in Australia, pollinators of the genus have yet to observe substantial evidence, so much so that the fungal mimesis hypothesis is often inconclusive. Because the flowers are small and difficult to observe, it is very difficult to carry out field experiments.

The researchers overcame many difficulties to conduct pollination ecology research on biconvex orchid and Shanlinxi orchid during the flowering period, investigated the habitat, flowering period and flower morphological characteristics of the two orchids in detail, and carried out field pollinator observation and breeding system bagging experiments. It has been found that the insects of the family Mushroomidae are pollinators of biconvex orchid and Shanlinxi orchid, which is the first to be found in the tropical and subtropical regions of the northern hemisphere. Artificial pollination experiments have shown that both species are inbred affinity, but cannot self-inbreed, requiring pollination by pollinators of the family Mushroomidae to bear fruit. No nectar was found in the orchid pitch, nor did it find that the fungus lays eggs in the orchid.

Double Convex Armor Orchid (Photo by Ren Zongxin)

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ShanlinXi Jiaolan (Photo by Ren Zongxin)

Combined with field observations, flower morphological characteristics, pollinator sex, flower visit behavior, and flower odor analysis, there is insufficient evidence for spawning site mimesis and fungal mimicry of The genus Orchid, but the possibility of spawning mimesis or foodborne mimicry (fungal mimic) cannot be ruled out. When the fungus mosquito visits the orchid, it needs to burrow into the flower for a long time, so it may be that the orchid tricked it into finding temporary shelter, which is a habitat mimicry. In summary, the study believes that these three mimetic patterns may coexist and are not mutually exclusive, but more observational and experimental evidence is needed. (Source: China Science Daily Gao Yali)

Related paper information:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12870-022-03816-1



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