The Dynamics of Pollination

Most of us are aware of the importance of pollination in order for plants to be able to reproduce, and we are also quite aware of how bees serve man by pollinating his fruit trees and vegetable crops. In many places, however, bees have a hard time surviving or meeting the needs of the plants that need pollination. Botanists have discovered that pollinators that fly--like bats--can supplement bees. They have also discovered 59 species of non-flying mammals that pollinate. In many cases, the plants seem to be engineered to work with certain mammals to pollinate the plants.

In Africa in a dry area, there is a lily named Massonia depressa. This plant forms two huge flat leaves like water lilies seen in America. These leaves lie flat on the ground, and its flowers sit on the ground in the same area. Starting each evening, the plants secrete gobs of nectar as thick as jelly. These gobs attract the hairy-footed and short tailed gerbils which get covered with pollen as they open the flowers with their front legs and push their faces in. Apparently these rodents are the prime pollinators, because when researchers covered the flowers with mesh that would let insects in but not the gerbils, the plants produced virtually no seed.

The advantages of diversity are seen in all kinds of human endeavors, but it is also obvious that in nature a variety of different systems have been designed so that one part of an ecosystem being damaged or destroyed does not obliterate the whole ecosystem. The dynamics of pollination show that in a beautiful way.

--Reference: Science News, Vol. 160, October 13, 2001, page 229.

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JulAug03.