First known instance of a cricket as an orchid pollinator captured on film (w/ Video)

Jan 12, 2010

An orchid researcher based on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean and collaborating with researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) has used motion sensitive night cameras to capture the first known occurrence of a cricket functioning as a pollinator of flowering plants. Not only is this the first time this behaviour has been documented in a member of the Orthoptera order of insects - who are better known for eating plants - but the 'raspy cricket' is also entirely new to science. The discovery is revealed in a paper published today in Annals of Botany.

In 2008 Claire Micheneau, a RBG Kew-associated PhD student studying how the epiphytic genus Angraecum has adapted to different on Reunion Island, and Jacques Fournel, her collaborator, shot the remarkable footage. It shows a raspy cricket (Glomeremus sp) carrying pollen on its head as it retreats from the greenish-white flowers of Angraecum cadetii.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This video footage shows pollen removal from Angraecum cadetii by the raspy cricket Glomeremus. Pollen is removed when the insect retreats from the second flower. Footage was shot by Claire Micheneau, a Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew-associated PhD student studying how the epiphytic orchid genus Angraecum has adapted to different pollinators on Reunion Island. Credit: Michenau and Fournel

The genus Angraecum is best known for Darwin's study of the comet orchid, Angraecum sesquipedale of Madagascar, and his hypothesis that it was pollinated by a bizarre, long-tongued moth pollinator - a theory that was later proved to be true many years after his death.

Says Claire Micheneau, "We knew from monitoring pollen content in the flowers that was taking place. However, we did not observe it during the day. That's why we rigged up a night camera and caught this raspy cricket in action. Watching the footage for the first time, and realising that we had filmed a truly surprising shift in the pollination of Angraecum, a genus that is mainly specialised for pollination, was thrilling.

"The moths that are the main Angraecum pollinators on Madagascar are not found on Reunion and until we started our research the pollination of this genus on Reunion had always been an open question."

Micheneau's research also revealed that two other species of Reunion Island Angraecum orchids (A. bracteosum and A. striatum) are pollinated by two species of small white eye songbirds (Zosterops borbonicus and Zosterops olivaceus).

She continues, "My studies have shown that the raspy cricket is also a surprisingly efficient pollinator with higher rates of pollination and fruit set in Angraecum cadetii than those recorded in its bird-pollinated sister-species."

There is a close match in size between the raspy cricket's head and Angraecum cadetii's nectar-spur opening. These wingless raspy crickets reach the flowers by climbing up the leaves of the orchid or jumping across from neighbouring plants. They use long very long antenna to explore their surroundings.

Just why the raspy cricket developed a taste for orchid nectar is still a key question for Micheneau. "Although crickets are typically omnivorous and eat both plant material and other insects, we think the raspy cricket has evolved to eat nectar to compensate for the general scarcity of other insects on Reunion."

Explore further: Aging white lion euthanized at Ohio zoo

Provided by Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

not rated yet

Related Stories

The evolution of orchids

Nov 19, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Charles Darwin and many other scientists have long been puzzled by the evolution of orchids, the largest and most diverse family of flowering plants on Earth. Now genetic sequencing is giving ...

New research explains orchids' sexual trickery

Dec 17, 2009

A new study reveals the reason why orchids use sexual trickery to lure insect pollinators. The study, published in the January issue of The American Naturalist, finds that sexual deception in orchids leads to a more effici ...

Orchid sexual deceit has male wasps in a loved-up frenzy

Apr 29, 2008

Orchids are admired by humans and insects alike, but according to Macquarie University research, one Australian wasp is so enthralled by ‘Orchid Fever' that actually he ejaculates while pollinating orchid ...

How to share a bat

Aug 22, 2007

New research shows how different species of plants evolve unique floral adaptations in order to transfer pollen on different regions of bats’ bodies, thus allowing multiple plant species to share bats as pollinators.

Neighbors gone, fruits gone, species gone

Mar 19, 2007

Neighbors gone, sex gone, fruits gone, species gone. This is the ultra-short conclusion of the findings in a study by Dennis Hansen, Heine Kiesbüy, and Christine Müller from Zurich University, and Carl Jones ...

The cost of long tongues

Apr 16, 2007

Orchid bees use their extraordinarily long tongues to drink nectar from the deep, tropical flowers only they can access. Researchers have long suspected that this kind of exclusive access came with a mechanical ...

Recommended for you

A vegetarian carnivorous plant

Dec 19, 2014

Carnivorous plants catch and digest tiny animals in order and derive benefits for their nutrition. Interestingly the trend towards vegetarianism seems to overcome carnivorous plants as well. The aquatic carnivorous bladderwort, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.