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Partners in Pollination Flower image
Introduction- Page 4
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Plant structures, too, are designed to attract specific pollinating partners. The Queen Anne's lace flower places its nectar right at the base of its tiny flowers where pollinators with a short proboscis (nectar-gathering appendage) such as honeybees, ants, wasps, flies, and beetles can reach it when they crawl on the flower. On the other hand, bumblebees, butterflies, and moths have long proboscises, which enable them to reach nectar in less accessible places. For example, the long shape and curve of the columbine flower complements the long tongue of a bee, butterfly, or hummingbird. By concealing the nectar deep within its trumpet-like blossoms, the columbine prevents animals who are not its pollination partners from taking the nectar and transferring any pollen.

Plants also use colors to attract their ideal animal pollinators. Hummingbirds often, but not always, are attracted to red flowers. As it turns out, red flowers are typically loaded with carbohydrate-rich nectar, which provides almost instant energy for the fast-moving hummingbirds. Insect pollinators see color differently than we do because they are sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light makes the reproductive areas of some flowers stand out. To human eyes a buttercup appears as a uniform yellow, but to a bee's eyes the flower's center (where the reproductive structures are) is darker because it reflects UV light. Bees are also attracted to blue and violet flowers. Flowers pollinated by animals who search for food at night are often pale so they'll be visible.

Through natural selection, a process in which living things become better adapted to their environments, some plants have evolved to match a particular animal pollinator. While this may be efficient because the pollinator will always visit the right species, it can also be dangerous for both partners should one or the other become extinct.

On a worldwide scale, animals pollinate more than three-fourths of the staple crop plants that people eat. Scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we take is the result of a successful animal-plant pollination system. For instance, consider a hamburger or hotdog with "the works": ketchup, relish, mustard, and onions. Several different bee species pollinated the flowers of the plants that produce these condiments: tomatoes, cucumbers, mustard seed, and onions. Other bees were responsible for the side dishes. For example, hardworking bees pollinated the potato plant that eventually became potato chips and French fries. And for dessert, an endless variety of ice cream flavors, such as strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla, is also the result of successful plant-animal partnerships. A world without pollinators, and thus without flowers, and so many types of food, would bea poor world indeed!
Butterfly on plant branch

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