J Syst Evol ›› 2010, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (2): 102-108.DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-6831.2009.00065.x

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A floral organ moving like a caterpillar for pollinating

1,3,4Zhong-Jian LIU* 1Li-Jun CHEN 1,2,3Ke-Wei LIU 1Li-Qiang LI 1Wen-Hui RAO   

  1. 1(The National Orchid Conservation Center of China /The Orchid Conservation & Research Center of Shenzhen, Shenzhen 518114, China)
    2(School of Life Sciences, University of Science & Technology of China, Hefei 230027, China)
    3(The Center for Biotechnology and BioMedicine, Graduate School at Shenzhen, Tsinghua University, Shenzhen 518055, China)
    4(College of Forestry, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou 510642, China)
  • Received:2009-09-21 Published:2010-03-18

Abstract: A new pollination mechanism is reported of an orchid species, Bulbophyllum penicillium, based on a field observation in Southeast Yunnan of China. This species has a sensitive lip, and there is a distance of 2–3 mm between it and column apex. Once the lip is touched by a landing insect, it will move up and down or swing left and right continuously, just like a moving caterpillar. By suck a lip movement, the pollinator, a very small fruit fly (Drosophila sp.) ca. 1 mm in height, will be pressed toward the column apex where anther and stigma are located, and then cross-pollination takes place. This unique mode of pollination, depending on the movement of lip rather than insect itself, has never been found before in either Orchidaceae or other families of angiosperms.

Key words: pollination mechanism, Bulbophyllum penicillium, Drosophila, lip movement.