Island Orchid Adapts to Find New Pollinator

Like all living organisms, orchids adapt to survive. An orchid arrived on a remote island, without the bumblebee species which pollinates it. Goodyera henryi lives in parts of east Asia, including the Japanese mainland. When it reached Kozu Island, it might have died out without reproducing. However, Goodyera similis, a closely related species, also lives on the island, along with its wasp pollinator. The wasps managed to cross-fertilize the new arrival. This created a hybrid, which looks similar to Goodyera henryi, but has a slightly different flower shape that accommodates wasps. Kobe University researchers were surprised to find the natural hybrid when they ran a genetic analysis. The discovery can help scientists understand how plants evolve in changing circumstances. If pollinators like bees become extinct, orchids may be able to adapt and survive. Be sure to click on the informative graphic at the top of the article.

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