Orchids' deceit pollination
Despite this, floral visitors are attracted by orchids' colours and shapes, which enables the plants' sexual reproduction. This is known as deceit pollination.
The University of Vigo Plant Ecology and Evolution research team, which Vale belongs to, is studying the ecological and evolutionary consequences of deceit pollination in orchids that are endemic to the Greater Antilles: Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. One of the mysteries they aim to solve is if the deceit orchids have a greater taxonomic and genetic diversity than other nectar-producing species.
Vale and his team are drawing up studies in the Antilles not only to reconstruct the evolutionary history of orchids but also to analyse the effect of pollinators in the reproduction of plants, and how this interaction has modelled the colourful aspect of these Caribbean flowers.
"Despite the fact that T. riparia's flowers have a complete central petal, just like other species that make up a subgenre endemic to Cuba; the way they grow is very similar to a more widespread group that seems to have diverged on the neighbouring island of Hispaniola. Our work provides molecular evidence of the greater relationship of T. riparia with these species on the neighbouring island. This is in consonance with the geological history of the Caribbean islands, according to which the eastern end of Cuba was in close contact with that land", pointed out Vale.
Scientists are currently trying to estimate how many millions of years ago this and other Caribbean species saw the light of day. This will enable them to test whether the ancestor of this species was already in Cuba, or if on the contrary, it evolved from an ancestor that colonised the island from neighbouring archipelagos.
"Just as with most orchids, which offer no compensation to their pollinators, Encyclia navarroi and Tetramicra riparia
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology