Pollination Perch

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Pollination perch described in a report in Nature, vol. 435, p41, 5 May 2005. Bruce Anderson of the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal, South Africa and colleagues have investigated "the curious sterile inflorescence axis" on a plant named Nectarinia famosa, commonly known as the rat's tail plant because of a large spike that projects from the base of the plant and towers above it but has no flowers, leaves or any photosynthetic tissue. They decided its function "is exclusively to provide a perch for foraging birds".

The plant is pollinated by the malachite sunbird which is large enough to reach into the flowers if it lands on the ground next to the plant. If the bird feeds while perched on the ground beside the flowers it does not make contact with the stamens and stigma and will not pollinate the flowers. However, if it perches on the spike it reaches over the flowers to feed on nectar and the plant's stigma and stamens come in contact with the bird's breast feathers. This means the bird collects and delivers pollen to the flowers as it feeds.

Editorial Comment: There are clear advantages for both bird and plant once they have mutually beneficial structures, functions and behaviour, but that does not explain how the genetics of originally non-matching plants and birds could be changed in order to match in the first place. In this case the spike has no known use to the plant unless the right sized birds use it. But birds would not use it unless it provided a better access perch than standing on the ground! It makes far more sense to believe that the plant and bird were both designed by the same Creator. Matching structure, function and behaviour in plants and their pollinators provides abundant evidence for plan and purpose, rather than naturalistic evolution. (Ref. pollination, fertilisation, design)

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