Caught in the act: Opossums pollinate bizarre parasitic plant | Science
Scybalium fungiforme is an odd plant. Found alongside the Atlantic coast of Brazil, it’s a parasite that feeds off the roots of different crops. It’s additionally solely seen when it sprouts gory, purple, funguslike flowers up from the floor for sexual copy.
Today, scientists have added one other oddity to the checklist. Researchers had lengthy suspected that as a result of the feminine flowers of S. fungiforme are lined in onerous scales that protect its nectar, it couldn’t be pollinated by a fowl or bee. And now, thanks to nighttime imaginative and prescient cameras, scientists have their wrongdoer: opossums.
Since the early 1990s, researchers have suspected opossums might pollinate the plant as a result of the mammals dwell in the identical area, and since their sharp, opposable claws would permit them to peel away the scales to get at the juicy nectar inside. In prior research, a researcher had even trapped an opossum with S. fungiforme pollen on its nostril.
The discover, printed immediately in Ecology, comes courtesy of infrared digicam traps fastidiously positioned round the crops. The cameras recorded 14 totally different visits from opossums over a Four-night interval, confirming the decades-old speculation. But the opossums don’t seem to work alone. After they open the scales, bees, wasps, and even hummingbirds swooped in to cart pollen away.