Plant pollinator fools with super believable fake flies
About the episode
Nature is full of tricks, or perhaps better said: full of evolutionary adaptations that have favored the survival of species. A very rare South African plant from the daisy family has made such an adaptation to conquer its neighbors.
This plant produces leaves with patterns that resemble female flies. They are so convincing that male flies are only too happy to pass and dive right above them. In an attempt to mate, they move back and forth, but something goes wrong. After a few unsuccessful attempts, they give up, but the plant already has exactly what it wants: pollen.
We already knew that this plant achieves this clever image on the leaves, including bumps and hairs, but it is not yet known how the plant does this. The researchers have now discovered three groups of genes that have been assembled in a new way in the leaves to make the false flies possible.
One group adds iron to the red-violet pigment of the leaves, which there forms the blue-green base of the fly image. The other group deals with hair growth. And a third group takes care of the random positioning of the fly.
Thus, the plant did not develop a single intelligent false fly gene, no, the genes that the plant already had for other work were given a new common task. And from an evolutionary point of view, the plant also developed this trick very quickly.
It gives the plant, which grows in harsh conditions, with little time to reproduce, an advantage over other plants.
Read more about research here: This deceptive daisy remixed her genes to make fake female flies.
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