October 1, 2010
Orchids have a reputation for deceiving pollinators, especially sexually, using floral ornamentation that beckons male mate-hunting insects to “come hither” and have a roll in the pollen. But a recent study (pdf) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Stellenbosch University finds that another fleur fatale has been lurking in the flowerbeds. Daisy family member Gorteria diffusa sports spots that bear a striking resemblance to flies—and those that most convincingly imitate a resting female bombyliid fly (those in the top row of the photo) elicit a strong mating response from love-hungry males. The flies that tried copulating with the spots were ultimately better exporters of that flower’s pollen than the female flies who landed on the blossom in search of food. The sexual deception ultimately allows for greater reproductive success for the daisy. The degree of sexual frustration for the flies has yet to be determined.
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Today’s post is by Smithsonian editorial assistant Jesse Rhodes.
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