Natures wonders: Orchid seeks one type of wasp (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Thursday, September 24, 2015, 20:48 (1216 days ago) @ David Turell

This poor orchid exudes a chemical to attract one type of male wasp, and because of habitat mismatch is in trouble:

"You see, this particular orchid species uses a series of chemical and visual cues to deceive males of a specific wasp species (Macrothynnus insignis) into thinking they are visiting a female wasp, not the flowering plant itself. But the orchid, it turns out, doesn't aim to attract just any males. According to the new paper, it's only luring in an unusually small form of M. insignis. DNA tests showed that these smaller wasps are reproductively isolated from the rest of their species, so they breed small and stay small.

"The ranges of the orchid and the small wasps overlap, but not ideally. The small wasps have a larger total range than the orchid does, so they're doing fine. The orchid, however, is suffering from extreme habitat loss and fragmentation due to human development, so it has a much smaller, more restricted range (basically just a few dots on the map of Western Australia). The wasp is not present in much of that territory. That leaves many orchids pining for pollinators they can't find.


"Of course this orchid has one additional pollinator waiting in the wings. As the authors wrote, a species called Homo sapiens can—and will probably have to—fill in for the wasps and hand-pollinate the orchids to help prevent their extinction."

Comment: Evolving into too small a niche.

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