The Aresema plant is a death trap for the fungus grunts that pollinate it.

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Jack-in-the-pulpit flowers – known for trapping and killing their pollinators – may also act as nurseries for insect eggs, a more delicate and mutually beneficial species challenging current assumptions. Demonstrate beneficial relationships.

This Pitcher shaped plantsof Janus ArisemaLure in their primary pollinators, the fungus gnats, mimicking the shape and Misty mushroom scent. But once the insect sinks into the flower spathe in pursuit of this quick treat, it cannot crawl out because the long hooded interior of the flower is too waxy. The gnat crawls around inside the pressed, reddish-green cup and struggles, spreading pollen around and pollinating the plant well, but eventually exhausts itself.

At least that’s what botanists are. Long thought.

But when Kenji Suetsugu And his team at Kobe University in Japan planted 62 flowers of the Asian jack-in-the-pulpit species. Arisema Thunbergie, they saw something strange. Helplessly trapped mosquitoes laid their eggs in flower crowns. When the flowers begin to die, the larvae feed on their rotting and decaying flesh and then emerge as adults a few weeks later.

The fact that traps can serve a dual function — as a pollination site and as a nursery for the next generation of pollinators — is “really surprising,” says Soetsugu.

Also, some adult mosquitoes manage to escape the flower net before it’s too late, meaning the deception is not “strictly fatal,” Suetsugu says. This suggests that plants are striking a balance between making sure they receive pollen and not completely wiping out pollinating mosquito populations.

These findings suggest that the relationship between jack-in-the-pulpits and their pollinators is more complex than previously thought, and “cannot be neatly classified as mutualistic or antagonistic,” says Soetsugu.

This relationship may represent a stage in the plant’s evolutionary process, moving from purely deceiving its pollinators to developing mutually beneficial relationships with them. Importantly, this may suggest that there is more to them than meets the eye, and other relationships between plants and pollinators around the world.

Indeed, these findings challenge some preconceived ecological theories, say. Jeff Ollerton at the University of Northampton in the UK. In this particular case, only some bugs seem to benefit, so it’s a mixed bag. More species, he says Arisema (The genus includes more than 190 species) This species needs to be studied in detail to know more.

“The deeper we look into plant-pollinator interactions, the more surprising we are in the ability of plants to manipulate pollinator behavior, or how strategies to obtain pollinator resources,” Ollerton says. can produce,” Ollerton says.