March 2, 2024

No need for pollinators? The study shows that plants are adapting to the lack of insects

The pansies observed in this study have developed a self-sustaining seed production strategy in a short period of three decades. Image source: Samson Akoka-Bedul.
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In the history of evolution, we know the relationships between symbolic and beautiful species, including the relationship between flowers and insects. The plants and their colorful flowers filled with nectar and pollen patiently await their winged visitorsIn them they find the food and protection they need to continue their journey after a good rest.

This is a great example of cross-fertilization known as cross-pollination Insects carry pollen for plant reproductionIt can take an unexpected turn.

A recent study from the University of Montpellier in France examined the past and present of wild violets (Viola arvensis) also known as pansies, in the Paris region to reveal the evolution of their interactions with pollinators.

“Reviving the ancestors

In a journey into the past, the researchers used a method known as “resurrection ecology,” a procedure that in this case consists of growing seeds that have been stored for several years and comparing them with their contemporaries.

In this case, they compared seed flowers harvested between 1992 and 2001 with seeds from that period harvested in 2021.

Different generations were analyzed, and their characteristics such as the size and color of flowers, as well as the amount of nectar they produced, were measured. The flowers are 10 percent smaller and produce 20 percent less nectar than flowers grown in the same fields 20 or 30 years ago. They also confirmed that insects visit them less often.

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Self-pollination syndrome, a vicious cycle

In addition to size and nectar production, the study showed that new generations of… Viola arvensis They were less colored and became “less attractive” to insects.

As detailed in the post, this appears Rapid adaptation to the current panorama, where there are fewer and fewer pollinators. Wild violets tend to self-pollinate to support themselves and To reproduce on its own without relying on insects.

“Our results show that ancient interactions that linked pansies with their pollinators are rapidly disappearing.

Samson Akoka Bedole, senior researcher at The Guardian.

Although this is interesting, it is a controversial point, according to the research, because it creates a “vicious cycle” in which “a decline in pollinators leads to a decline in nectar production by flowers, which in turn “can exacerbate the decline of these insects.”

Real-time development

Development is a process that takes a lot of time – Just look at the case Homo sapiens – But the wild violets seem to be a rapidly adapting “race” that is happening in real time before our eyes.

A drone in a wati field
This study is not only a window into flowers' past and present, but also a warning about how current environmental pressures can rapidly alter crucial interactions between plants and pollinators.

“This research shows that plants undergo thousands of years of evolution in response to a phenomenon, “This has only been around for 50 years,” Philip Donkersley, an environmental impact specialist at Lancaster University in the UK, told The Guardian.

The researchers stressed the importance of moving as quickly as possible to confront this phenomenon, and thus millions of people To ensure interactions between plants and pollinators that have been present for years.

Source note:
Akoka-Pedol S, Gauthier P, et al. the. Ongoing convergent evolution of selfing syndrome threatens interactions between plants and pollinators. The New Botanist (2023).

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