What is phallenophilia?

What is phallenophilia?

The reproductive process of plants frequently requires the action of animals and insects that fulfill a pollinating function. We are used to hearing about pollinators such as bees and butterflies, but we overlook other species that also contribute to plant reproduction, such as moths. Therefore, on this occasion we want to talk to you about What is phallenophilia?

If you don't like moths, you may change your mind at the end of this article, because you will discover that they fulfill an important mission in the reproduction of some of the plant species that you like the most. And it surely won't surprise you to know that some plants have evolved to be pollinated only by these insects.

The flower syndrome

The flower syndrome

To understand what phallenophilia is, firstor we have to know what a floral syndrome is. It is a set of morphological and physiological characteristics shared by the flowers of different plant species, which serve to attract a specific type of pollinator.

There are two floral syndromes:

Abiotic floral syndromes

They are characterized because they do not attract animals, and there are two types:

  • Anemophilia. It consists of pollination by the wind. Since they do not have to attract pollinators, the flowers of this syndrome are inconspicuous, but they produce large quantities of pollen. This is the pollen that is usually suspended in the environment and causes allergies.
  • Hydrophilicity. It is pollination by water. This syndrome is present in aquatic plants, which have small, unattractive flowers. However, there are varieties of aquatic plants that have floral systems that have evolved to attract pollinators, these have a more showy flowering.

Biotic floral syndromes

They are those in which the flowers need to be pollinated by animals. Within them we find different varieties, including phallenophilia.

  • Melitophilia. It is pollination by bees. These flowers are showy and open or showy and difficult to access. In some cases pollination is carried out by wasps and not bees, as is usually the case with orchids.
  • Myophilia and sapromyophilia. It is pollination by flies. To attract them, flowers that fit within this floral syndrome usually give off a bad smell.
  • Psychophilia and phallenophilia. It is pollination through butterflies and moths.
  • Cantharophilia. It involves pollination carried out by beetles. There are not many species with this floral syndrome, because beetles are usually quite harmful to plants. But magnolias and water lilies reproduce this way.
  • Ornithophilia. It is pollination carried out by birds, and it occurs in flowers that are large in size, like those common in humid tropical forests.
  • Chiropterophilia. It consists of pollination through bats. The flowers are characterized by being large in size and having the capacity to produce nectar for a long period of time.

What is phallenophilia?

What is phallenophilia?

Phallenophilia is a biotic floral syndrome. That is, a set of characteristics that are present in plants of different species that require the presence of moths or moths for their reproduction.

These types of flowers usually have a tubular shape, to adapt to the tongue of these insects. In order to ensure that the nectar is absorbed by a moth and not by other species, the flowers are nocturnal. They open when darkness comes and They close when dawn begins. The way to attract moths is through an intense fragrance.

Moths feed on the nectar of flowers, as they go from one plant to another they drag and release pollen, which contributes to the pollination of female flowers with pollen from male flowers. It is a contact pollination, since Pollen adheres to the body and wings of moths while they are feeding, and then it is transferred to other flowers when they also go to them in search of food.

What occurs in these cases is a perfect symbiosis. The moth comes to the plant to feed on its nectar and, without being aware of it, it takes its pollen to other plants. In exchange, the plant species manages to reproduce.

There are also some species of moths that have coevolved with certain species of plants. So that only certain varieties of moths are capable of intervening in the pollination of certain plants. Here are some examples:

Sphinx moths and orchids

Sphinx moths and orchids

Sphinx moths insert their heads into the orchid flower to access the nectar and take the pollen.

In the case of orchids of the genus Angraecum, native to Madagascar, their flowers are nocturnal and can only be pollinated by sphynx moths that have long proboscises. Other insects cannot physically access their nectar.

Yucca moths

Moths of the genus Tegeticula have a symbiotic relationship with plants of the Agavaceae family such as yucca. Moths lay their eggs on the flowers of this plant. and, in doing so, they carry out the pollination process.

For their part, the moth larvae feed on yucca seeds and They develop inside the pods of those seeds.

Moths and palm trees

The coconut palm moth has a close relationship with palm trees. As with yucca, these moths lay their eggs on the flowers of palm trees and, when they land on them to do so, they take the pollen on their bodies and spread it around.

The evolutionary process that plants and animals have followed is truly amazing. It's not just that flowers have evolved to attract certain pollinators, it's that they have developed a morphology that prevents other insects from accessing them. Precisely because of this codependency that exists between the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom, the conservation of ecosystems is especially important. Because the disappearance of one species of insects, or plants, can mean the disappearance of other plants or insects.

We hope you found this article interesting. Now that you know what phallenophily is, you will surely observe the activity of pollinators and the shape of the flowers with different eyes.


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