Reptilian Pollinators

Another group of unusual pollinators I want to highlight this week is the reptilian pollinators.  Naturally, they are not the first group one would think of, but some reptiles are nonetheless critical pollinators.

For example, there is a gecko on the island of Mauritius (a fascinating island in many ways, e.g. the former home of the dodo), that is a critical pollinator for the endangered plant. The blue-tailed day gecko (Phelsuma cepediana), which lives in Pandanus, visits the flowers of the threatened Trochetia*, and has been shown to carry more pollen than the associated insect fauna (Hansen et al 2006).

The Pandanus is an important component of this story because the geckos can only be effective pollinators when they can hide in the dense Pandanus bushes.  Otherwise, they get eaten by the Mauritius kestrel (Falco punctatus) (also endangered).

Previously, the bulk of the pollination services to the Trochetia plants were from the nearly extinct olive white-eye (Zosterops chloronothos), making this one of the interesting extinction cascades Mauritius and other small islands are known for.

Such a tragedy to lose this little bird

Such a tragedy to lose this little bird, copyright Dubi Shaprio

Another example of a reptilian pollinator is the Noronha skink (Euprepis atlanticus) in Brazil, which drinks the nectar of (and acts as a pollinator of) the mulungu tree (Erythrina velutina).
However, the majority of reptilian pollinators are found on islands (Olesen and Valido, 2003).

*To make this story even more interesting, Trochetia plants are known for being one of the few plants that can produce coloured nectar (which then attracts geckos, Hansen et al 2006)!  What a shame it would be to lose these fascinating mutualisms.

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One thought on “Reptilian Pollinators

  1. Pingback: Elephant week: Elephants are scared of bees | standingoutinmyfield

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