Brassica rapa plants pollinated by bumblebees evolve more attractive flowers. But this evolution is compromised if caterpillars attack the plant at the same time. With the bees pollinating them less effectively, the plants increasingly self-pollinate. In a greenhouse evolution experiment, scientists at the University of Zurich have shown just how much the effects of pollinators and pests influence each other…
After this experimental evolution study, the plants pollinated by bumblebees without herbivory were most attractive to the pollinators: they evolved more fragrant flowers, which tended to be larger. “These plants had adapted to the bees’ preferences during the experiment,” explains Sergio Ramos. By contrast, bee-pollinated plants with herbivory were less attractive, with higher concentrations of defensive toxic metabolites and less fragrant flowers that tended to be smaller. “The caterpillars compromise the evolution of attractive flowers, as plants assign more resources to defense,” says Ramos.
The powerful interplay between the effects of bees and caterpillars was also evident in the plants’ reproductive characteristics: In the course of their evolution, for example, the bee-pollinated plants developed a tendency to spontaneously self-pollinate when they were simultaneously damaged by caterpillars. Plants attacked by caterpillars developed less attractive flowers, which affected the behavior of the bees so that they pollinated these flowers less well. Paper. – Sergio E. Ramos, Florian P. Schiestl. Rapid plant evolution driven by the interaction of pollination and herbivory. Science, April 11, 2019 DOI: 10.1126/science.aav6962 More.
Wait a minute. This isn’t evolution! If these traits developed during the experiment, the tendency to do this sort of thing must be coded into the plants. The question then becomes, what signal systems convey information throughout the plant about self-pollination or blossom size in response to
Funny what gets called “evolution” these days. No wonder there is increasing skepticism among secular scientists.
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