An Essay Concerning Petal Color and Pollination
|An Essay Concerning Petal Color and Pollination|
|Author||Gaelin Caästreo, Arturo Broos|
“An Essay Concerning Petal Color and Pollination” was written by biologist Gaelin Caästreo and botanist Arturo Broos. Gaelin and Arturo worked together for some time, following the fame that Gaelin’s debut publication on amphibians brought him. This essay was a study done by the duo after Arturo hypothesized that brighter plants had a better opportunity for reproduction than darker ones. Their published findings are popular among students of the Science Schools and receive critical acclaim from the scholars found within. The actual contents of the essay discuss a plant’s natural ability to reproduce and the implications of the various ways that they pollinate.
An Essay Concerning Plant Pollination
The daylily and nightlily are typical examples of the butterfly-pollination system and hawkmoth pollination system respectively. The daylily has diurnal red to orange colored flowers, and is mainly pollinated by diurnal swallowtail butterflies. In contrast, the nightlily has nocturnal yellow flowers, and is pollinated by nocturnal hawkmoths.
Interestingly enough, the flowers pollinated by the hawkmoths display a entirely different set of traits in comparison to their diurnal counterparts, despite being in the same genus. Flowers pollinated by hawkmoths tend to have pale-colored petals on their flowers, but have sweet scent and long, narrow flower tubes or spurs. Diurnal plants of the same genus, such as those pollinated by honey bees, hummingbirds, swallowtail butterflies and long-tongued flies, all have strongly colored petals on their flowers with little to no scent. With this in mind, we decided to test the importance of petal color over scent when attracting the nocturnal hawkmoth.
Our experiment consisted of a six meter by six meter square of daylilies and nightlilies respectively. We freed several hawkmoths into a contained room and observed their pollination patterns, and repeating the same experiment with swallowtail butterflies. We found that the swallowtail butterfly tends to prefer the yellow flowers over red or orange flowers, while the hawkmoth preferred the red. If you recall, dear colleagues, this is the opposite of their usual pollination patterns. This evidence left us with one question: why did their preferences switch from their normal patterns?
Recent experiments (independent from our own) in entomology have shown that hawkmoths have an innate preference to blue and weaker preference to violet and yellow. In contrast, the swallowtail butterflies have an innate attraction to yellow and red. These same studies also showed that these animals can be ‘trained’ to be attracted to different flowers depending on the color to nectar ratio. This evidence seems to contradict our own findings but in fact it proves a very interesting fact about not only flora, but the animals that pollinate them. In our study we only had two options of flowers, red and yellow. We originally sought to see if the scent of the plant affected the ability to be pollinated by its respective pollinator. It was highly unexpected that hawkmoths didn’t show any preference for the scent of the flower, but this ended up being the case. It appears that the color of the petals have more to do with the insect’s want to pollinate a flower rather than its scent, because the insect correlates the color of the plant to the ratio of nectar that it receives. During the night, the red flowers appear darker than the yellow flowers and thus are disregarded by the nocturnal hawkmoth. In our study, both were located under lights and offered new opportunity for the hawkmoth to pollinate. It correlated the new color with higher nectar rewards and proved that scent has little to do with the ability to pollinate.
- Gaelin actually hates botany, but agreed to help with the study because his wife said that she wouldn’t feed him for a month if he refused.