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Pollination By Animals

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Pollination - An Introduction

Transferring pollen grains from a flower's male anther to its female stigma is the process of pollination. Every living thing, including plants, strives to produce progeny for the following generation. Plants create their seeds using flowers as their tools. Only when pollen is exchanged between flowers of the same species seeds can be produced. A community of individuals that are capable of freely interbreeding with one another but do not do so due to geographic, reproductive, or other restrictions is referred to as a species.


Pollination By Animals - Zoophily

The reproduction of flowering plants and the production of most fruits and vegetables both depend heavily on animal pollinators. Pollinators are necessary for major plants to develop seeds and fruit. Over three-quarters of the plants that produce the basic crops that feed humanity and about 80% of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators. Both plants and animals are mutually benefited from pollination of animals. It is also known as Zoophily. Typically, most blooming plants are pollinated by invertebrates. However, vertebrates like birds and bats also work well as pollination facilitators.

Plants that depend on animals to pollinate have specific adaptations that attract pollinators. These include:

  • Brightly coloured flowers

  • Sweet nectars

  • Appealing patterns and shapes

Examples of Animals that help in pollination are Bees, beetles, butterflies, Ants, Hummingbirds, bats, rodents, lemurs, lizards, wasps, moths, and slugs.


Diversity of Animal Pollination

The degree to which pollination mutualisms specialise or generalise also varies. Interactions in which each partner is required to be involved are at one extreme. The two traditional examples are yuccas and yucca moths, as well as figs and fig wasps. In the latter interaction, moths from the genera Tegeticula and Parategeticula (Prodoxidae) oviposit into and pollinate Yucca species flowers (Asparagaceae).

However, some of the seeds are consumed by developing moth larvae before they fall to the soil beneath the plant, enter diapause as pupae, wait for the recurrence of favourable conditions, emerge as adults, and resume the cycle. The moths are both pollinators and seed predators, which contributes to broad pollination; in fact, this antagonistic aspect of the association may help to explain its high degree of reciprocal specificity. Additionally, certain other highly specific systems, such as figs and their wasps, have mutualistic and hostile relationships.

On the other end of the spectrum are plants that are extremely generalised and draw a variety of insects and other animals as pollinators, as well as pollinators that employ a wide variety of flowers. Numerous species of the sunflower and carrot families (Asteraceae and Apiaceae) represent the former, whereas many bumblebee species, many hummingbird species, and bees of the genus Apis (including the honeybee Apis mellifera) represent the latter.


Importance of Animal Pollination

Animal pollination assists abiotic agents like the wind in pollinating some plant species. Animal pollination is frequently the only method of sexual reproduction. On the other hand, many pollinators are forced to eat nectar for their body metabolism, which relies on pollen as a protein supply. But Animals permit more directed pollen migration among plants in comparison to abiotic pollen carriers. Because of its crucial significance in the reproduction of individual plants, animal pollination serves an equally important role at the level of all ecosystems, both natural and managed.


Many plant species' persistence, recruitment of seedlings, and seed crops would be in danger without pollination. Unfortunately, a variety of anthropogenic factors, such as habitat loss, pesticide usage, and the introduction of alien species, can have a negative impact on pollinators. For instance, certain species of bumblebees in North America are rapidly declining, probably because of parasite infections brought in by humans.


Along with other grievances against plant populations (such as inbreeding depression in small populations), these dangers to pollinators could lead to the local or global extinction of species. As a free and indispensable ecosystem function, pollination has been valued economically by ecologists and economists.


Pollination By Mammals

Animals other than bees also transport pollen from one blossom to another. Additionally, pollinators include animals with backbones like lizards, birds, mice, and bats. Vertebrate pollinators are more likely to have co-evolved close connections of high value to the plants they serve, providing vital reproductive aid for which few or no other species may substitute while being less familiar as flower visitors than insect pollinators.

  • Around 528 plant species are pollinated by bats worldwide, including the "King of Fruits" of Southeast Asia, durian, African locust beans, and dragon fruit. Numerous bat species have coevolved close ties of reliance with the plants they eat in exchange for the transportation of pollen. Among these, the greater (Leptonycteris nivalis) and smaller (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) long-nosed bats are fully responsible for the blue agave (Agave tequilana), the source of tequila.

Only at night do the cacti release their long, narrow blossoms, attracting bats with the scent of spoiled fruit. Long-nosed bats travel from Central America to southern New Mexico, Arizona, and Sonora each summer, where they perform important pollination work for the saguaro (Cereus giganteus), the tall, recognisable cactus of the American Southwest. For the bat to be able to migrate, flowering and fruiting must occur at precisely the right times.


Interesting Facts

  • More than 20,000 species of wild bees in the world contribute to pollination.

  • Pollinators can increase crop yield by 24% in small, diverse farms.

  • Bees have four wings: they hook two wings on each side to form one large wing for flying and unhook them when they are not.

  • One pound of white clover honey represents about 17,330 foraging trips by honeybees to about 8.7 million flowers. That is 7,221 hrs of bee labour.

Key Features

  • Both invertebrates and vertebrates play a crucial role in pollination

  • Animals, insects, and butterflies are biotic agents of pollination.

  • Entomophily refers to pollination by insects, while ornithophily refers to pollination by birds. Zoophily is the term for pollination by vertebrates.

  • Some species of bats (notably the leaf-nosed bats) can transport pollen up to 17km between plants.

Last updated date: 21st Sep 2023
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FAQs on Pollination By Animals

1. How are new queens created by honeybees?

After the death of the Queen bee inside the hive, the worker bees choose a larva and feed it with special food called royal jelly to develop a fertile queen.

2. What are the economic benefits of pollinators?

The economic benefits of pollinators are:

  • Pollinators are important in the production of an estimated 30 percent of the human diet, fibers, edible oils, medicines created from plants, and other important products around the world.

  • In the U.S., the annual benefit of managed honeybees to agriculture was estimated as $14.6 billion in 2000.

3. What are the precaution steps taken to prevent the extinction of pollinators?

The precaution steps taken to prevent the extinction of pollinators are:

  • Planting native plants that offer food, and a place to nest for all stages of bees, flies, butterflies, and other pollinators to make your garden and property pollinator friendly.

  • By avoiding the usage of pesticides, we can prevent the extinction of pesticides.