Navigation Links
High-speed video and artificial flowers shed light on mysteries of hummingbird-pollinated flowers

How flowers have evolved particular colours, shapes and scents to attract pollinators has long fascinated ecologists. Now, using artificial flowers and high-speed video, researchers have gained intriguing insights into the intimate relationship between hummingbirds and the flowers they pollinate. The study, published in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional Ecology, is the first to measure how much energy hummingbirds use while hovering to feed from flowers of different orientation.

Hummingbirds are among the smallest and most brightly-coloured birds on Earth, and one of the only types of bird capable of hovering for long periods. They are also crucial pollinators of flowering plants across the Americas. Hummingbird-pollinated flowers are usually red, tubular-shaped and have no smell, characteristics that have been well-studied by ecologists. Why most hummingbird-pollinated flowers hang down vertically, however, has remained a mystery.

Working with Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna) the most common hummingbird species on their university campus Dr Nir Sapir and Dr Robert Dudley of the University of California, Berkeley built a series of artificial "flowers". The artificial flowers, which pointed horizontally, vertically-downwards or were tilted 45 degrees downward, supplied nectar to the birds.

After training the hummingbirds to feed from the artificial flowers, the researchers used high-speed video to record how flower orientation affected the birds' body position and hovering style while feeding. They then fitted the artificial flowers with a mask to measure the amount of oxygen and hence how much energy the birds used to hover while feeding.

The results revealed that to feed from flowers hanging down vertically, the hummingbirds had to adopt a "bizarre" body position, with their bodies upright and heads bent back, and that doing so required 10% more energy than feeding from horizontal flowers.

The results are intriguing, says Dr Sapir: "Because flowers need pollinators to reproduce, flowers have evolved to attract pollinators. Almost all hummingbird-pollinated flowers hang down vertically, so our hypothesis was that they evolved this way because hummingbirds would have to use less energy to feed from them. We found the opposite that it's more costly in energy terms for hummingbirds to feed from these flowers."

In evolutionary terms, this means other factors must be at play. "Our findings suggest other factors may be dictating flower orientation. Flowers may need to exclude less efficient pollinators, such as insects, and so flowers that hang down vertically may be selected during evolution to increase pollination efficiency. And horizontal flowers are more exposed to rain, which can dilute the amount of nectar in a flower, and we know that hummingbirds can tell how sweet nectar is, so they may select downward-facing flowers because their nectar is less diluted by rain and thus contains the most sugar."


Contact: Becky Allen

Related biology news :

1. BGI and Aspera collaborate on high-speed data exchange to advance genome research
2. Video-article shows how to purify magnetic bacteria
3. Can videogaming benefit young people with autism spectrum disorder?
4. Video-gaming fish play out the advantages of groups
5. Chemistry on Mars video with Curiosity Rover from the American Chemical Society
6. New video series highlights the people who fuel Americas innovation pipeline
7. First ever videos of snow leopard mother and cubs in dens recorded in Mongolia
8. Pre-surgical steps for eye surgery are standardized through JoVEs video publication
9. Camera trap video offers rare glimpse of worlds rarest gorilla
10. Spanish researcher releases a video showing a beetle from the inside
11. Nature: Video reveals wave character of particles
Post Your Comments:
(Date:9/30/2015)... , Sept. 30, 2015  The U.S. Court ... issued another key ruling in favor of Crossmatch ... Korean fingerprint scanner company Suprema and its U.S. partner ... 1930, a trade provision that declares it unlawful to ... by infringing two of Crossmatch,s patents, the 5,900,993 patent ...
(Date:9/28/2015)... YORK , Sept. 28, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... announced today that its expedited traveler service ... innovative platform transforms travel, bringing a frictionless ... its members. "CLEAR offers our ... enhances customer service," said Jim Smith ...
(Date:9/28/2015)... , Sept. 28, 2015 Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: ... solutions, today announced that Lenovo has selected Synaptics , ... FS4202, for its latest smartphone, the Vibe P1. The ... to unlock the device and provide swift access to ... The feature-rich Natural ID FS4202 sensor solution utilizes AES256-bit ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/13/2015)... ALBANY, New York , October 13, 2015 ... Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2015 - 2023 " ... bn in 2014 and is anticipated to reach US$7.59 bn by ... from 2015 to 2023. --> " Microbiology Culture ... 2015 - 2023 " , the global microbiology ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... TapImmune, Inc. (TPIV), a ... peptide and gene-based immunotherapeutics and vaccines for the treatment ... presenting company at the Dawson James Small Cap ... Jupiter, Florida on October 15, ... clinical-stage immunotherapy company specializing in the development of innovative ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... Charlotte, NC (PRWEB) , ... October 13, 2015 ... ... high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) technologies, announced today that it received de novo ... 450 in the U.S. for the ablation of prostate tissue. Sonablate® is ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2015 , ... Spirax Sarco, ... the release of the CSM-C 600 compact clean steam generator . This ... that meets the requirements of HTM2031, HTM2010, and EN285 standards. The CMS-C 600 ...
Breaking Biology Technology: