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Wealth of Orchid Varieties Is Down to Busy Bees and Helpful Fungi, Says Study

Date: 28.3.2011 

Scientists have discovered why orchids are one of the most successful groups of flowering plants - it is all down to their relationships with the bees that pollinate them and the fungi that nourish them.

For example, when orchids Pterygodium pentherianum and Pterygodium schelpei live side by side, Pterygodium pentherianum puts its pollen on the bee's front legs, whereas Pterygodium schelpei puts it on the bee's abdomen, as in the photo above. This means that one bee can carry pollen from two distinct species without mixing it.

The study also shows how orchids are able to live harmoniously together, with different species working in partnership with different microscopic fungi in the soil, ensuring they do not compete with each other.

Original Paper:

Richard J. Waterman, Martin I. Bidartondo, Jaco Stofberg, Julie K. Combs, Gerhard Gebauer, Vincent Savolainen, Timothy G. Barraclough, Anton Pauw. The Effects of Above- and Belowground Mutualisms on Orchid Speciation and Coexistence. The American Naturalist, 2011; 177 (2): E54 DOI: 10.1086/657955






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