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Wealth of orchid varieties is down to busy bees and helpful fungi, says study
Date:1/31/2011

es normally share the same insect pollinator, the plants needed to use different fungal partners in order to coexist in the same region.

"By tapping into different kinds of fungi, different plant species access different pools of nutrients and so the problem of living together without competing for the same resources is solved," said Professor Barraclough. However, the same fungal partners are found in different geographical areas and so orchid species that originate in different areas, by adapting to different pollinators, tend still to use the same fungi.

The team's fieldwork shows that shifts in pollination traits were important for bringing about new species and allowing coexistence in a diverse group of orchids, whereas shifts in fungal partner were important for coexistence but not for speciation. Many other groups of flowering plants enter into similar relationships with pollinators and fungi, and both the origins and the future survival of that diversity could depend critically on understanding these relationships.

Dr Richard Waterman, now at the University of Sheffield, who conducted the research as part of his PhD at Imperial College London and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, commented on the next steps for the scientists: "We need a better understanding of these relationships if we are to predict and counter the effects of the worldwide decline in pollinators and soil quality."


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Contact: Simon Levey
s.levey@imperial.ac.uk
44-207-594-6702
Imperial College London
Source:Eurekalert  

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