Why would a fungus want or need to create light? According to the Wet Tropics Management Authority, no one knows why many species use bioluminescence, but across its incredible evolutionary history, in circumstances of such windlessness, the fungi would appear to have adapted through mimicry of the flightless, female firefly. The fungus emits an indistinguishable light from an identical chemical reaction to lure the male firefly into making contact, who then carries the spores throughout the forest on his journey ahead.
Why is the flower of the bottlebrush orchid (Dendrobium smilliae) so attractive to green tree ants (Oecophilla smaragdina)?
In an ABC news article by Dani Cooper, Anne Gaskett (a PhD student from Macquarie University in Sydney) offers some interesting insight:
Ms Gaskett used a spectrometer to analyse the colours of a female wasp of the species whose males pollinate five species of native tongue orchid.
Taking into account factors including the background colour, ambient light and colour range of the male wasp’s receptors, she found the orchid replicates almost exactly the colours of the female orchid dupe wasp. She has also found ‘hidden shapes’ that feel like a female wasp to the male, including ‘love handles’ the male wasp grip onto while mating.
Perhaps the prominent dark-green glossy aspects of the bottlebrush orchid present an irresistible abdominal similarity to the ants.
Ian Mott says
So there are numerous natural equivalents to the human blow up sex doll?
Or is that merely an inflated expectation?
A great photograph!
So how are the bottlebrush orchids pollinated?
Neil Hewett says
Apart from the activity of green tree ants, pollination is ornithophilous.
Birds and ants – now there are two diverse strategies!
That seems a little far fetched. Just my thought…maybe different species with similar and independently developed characteristics were attracted rather than one adapting to attract the other.
Neil Hewett says
What about fig wasps, Woody? They form an obligate mutualism with the corresponding fig tree. The female wasp enters through the mouth of the fruit, which is covered in male flowers, and oviposits in the inflorescence within. Short female flowers that correspond exactly to the ovipositor length of the wasp, produce fruit with little flavour and lots of developing larvae. Alternate fruitings dominate with long female flowers, way beyond the overpositor length of the wasp, producing delicious flavours for the distribution enthusiasms of birds, bats and possums and very few developing wasp larvae.
I understand that animals and insects are able to detect characteristics in plants and take advantage of them, but I’m a little suspicious when it’s the other way around. In fact, some around here have called me a skeptic–and a lot worse.
So Woody, you don’t think natural selection acts on plants in the same way it acts on animals?