Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: A flower is an evolutionary compromise

Pollination IMG_4730D Welcome, pollinators! But, um, everyone else can just stay out, okay? Photo by Yeoh Thean Kheng.

Over at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, I’ve written about a neat study of the tropical vine Dalechampia scandens, which has to solve an evolutionary puzzle that confronts most flowering plants:

But there’s a downside to making a big, showy display to attract pollinators—you might also attract visitors who have less helpful intentions than gathering up some pollen and moving on to the next flower. Showy flowers might attract animals that steal the rewards offered to pollinators—or they might attract animals that eat the flowers themselves, or the developing seeds created by pollination.

To see how a team of biologists directly measured this evolutionary compromise (spoiler: it involves counting pollen grains with a hand lens) go read the whole thing.◼