An orchid researcher based on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean and collaborating with researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) has used motion sensitive night cameras to capture the first known occurrence of a cricket functioning as a pollinator of flowering plants. Not only is this the first time this behaviour has been documented in a member of the Orthoptera order of insects who are better known for eating plants but the 'raspy cricket' is also entirely new to science. The discovery is revealed in a paper published today (12 January 2010) in Annals of Botany.
In 2008 Claire Micheneau, a RBG Kew-associated PhD student studying how the epiphytic orchid genus Angraecum has adapted to different pollinators on Reunion Island, and Jacques Fournel, her collaborator, shot the remarkable footage. It shows a raspy cricket (Glomeremus sp) carrying pollen on its head as it retreats from the greenish-white flowers of Angraecum cadetii.
The genus Angraecum is best known for Darwin's study of the comet orchid, Angraecum sesquipedale of Madagascar, and his hypothesis that it was pollinated by a bizarre, long-tongued moth pollinator a theory that was later proved to be true many years after his death.
Says Claire Micheneau, "We knew from monitoring pollen content in the flowers that pollination was taking place. However, we did not observe it during the day. That's why we rigged up a night camera and caught this raspy cricket in action. Watching the footage for the first time, and realising that we had filmed a truly surprising shift in the pollination of Angraecum, a genus that is mainly specialised for moth pollination, was thrilling.
"The moths that are the main Angraecum pollinators on Madagascar are not found on Reunion and until we started our research the pollination of this genus on Reunion had always been an open question."
|Contact: Bronwyn Friedlander|
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew