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Ancient Pollination

November 30, 2009

Millions of years before flowers evolved, insects were pollinating non-flowering plants.


An ancient symbiosis…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists believe that insects have been pollinating flowering plants for over 100 million years. But now there’s fossil evidence from China that ancient scorpionflies may have been pollinating some non-flowering plants over 60 million years before that. Paleoecologist Conrad Labandeira of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History says that the scorpionflies had long, tubelike mouthparts.

CONRAD LABANDEIRA (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History):
And we also noted that in the same deposits were characteristic structures of non-flowering plants, that had very elongate tubules or funnels that would be ideal for receiving the pollen that was attached to the mouthparts of the scorpionflies.

He says the discovery provides the first strong evidence that not all ancient non-flowering plants were pollinated by the wind. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.