Sneaky false flower that claims to be a rotting beetle

It was Butterflies that pushed them. Thomas Robb, a doctoral student in ecology at Paris Loudron University in Salzburg, was walking through a mountain forest with his teammates near Athens, Greece, when he saw them: insects that, when in caterpillar form, feed on a special type of plant called aristolochia microscopic tumor. Rob says, “Wherever I saw this butterfly fly, I knew there had to be some Aristolochia about plants. “

Robb crouched down to find the plant’s unusual blossoms hidden among the rocks and leaves. It is dark red in color, and looks like a swollen bulb attached to a narrow tube inclined by small pores called stoma. Everything is very similar to getting into the intestinal canal. it’s not. It’s even stranger.

Ecologists have long suspected that these flowers use a clever ploy to attract visitors, which will carry pollen with them to other flowers of the same species when they leave. Most flowers offer colorful petals or tons of sweet nectar in exchange for this service. but not A. microstoma. “They are liars,” says Stephane Duterle, a Robb consultant and ecologist. “They promise something. They seem to give a reward as they do. Not You have. So they trick pollinators into pollination.”

Courtesy of Thomas Robb

The ‘spoof pollination’ tactic is unheard of – some orchids have evolved into Looks and smells like the bugs you’ll try to mate with, and they’re famous corpse flower Attracts insects looking for rotting meat. But in a study Published in May in the magazine Frontiers in ecology and evolutionThe team found that these plants lure pollinators into using a different scent to die: the scent of dead beetles. It’s the first report of a plant that smells like decaying invertebrates, and Robb’s team shows how this unique evolutionary strategy works in catching unsuspecting flies.

It must be said that flies are also strange. FreddyThe family of flies that includes “coffin flies” is known to lay eggs in the rotting carcasses of beetles. Phorids are also frequent human remains. They can be indicators of where a body is buried, and scientists can use them to estimate how long a person has been dead. “They are really important insects that people use in forensic entomology, and here they are visiting a flower that was thought to mimic corpses or remains,” Anne Gasket, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, who was not involved in the work. Gasket studies how plants, especially orchids, trick pollinators. “It’s a nice match for what you might expect and what they actually found.”

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