Ptyxis Ecology - Our Botany Blog

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The flower and the fly

Bank of globeflower by River Ithing.

Its always good to see a bank full of globeflower! Its not a common sight even up here in the north! The flowers have their own wow factor and area sign of a very good habitat. But apart from all that, there is a very interesting story to be told about globeflower flies. To these critters the globe-flower really is their world!
Guess what's inside me?

If you google globeflower you will find lots of scientific papers on globeflower flies (or Chiastocheta species). The flower and the flies are a classic case of mutualism (what people used to call symbiosis). They have co-evolved, as globeflower depends on these particular flies for pollination and the larvae of these particular flies feed on nothing else but globeflower seeds.

That's interesting enough but it gets better! There are at least 6 different species of these flies and several of them can co-exist in the same flower without competing with each other. Each occupies a slightly different niche within this tiny secret world. They largely seem to avoid competing with each other by developing at different stages of the seed development.

A big fly and a small fly

So, next time you find a globeflower, take a look inside. We had a look inside some flowers by the River Irthing on the Cumbria/Northumberland border on Sunday and found about 5 or 6 flies of different sizes in each one.

However, if you look on the NBN gateway website you will see that there are hardly any records for any Chiastocheta species in the whole country and none at all for our part of the world in the north Pennines and south Northumberland! But they must be here! Otherwise how would the flowers reproduce, unless they just reproduce vegetatively all the time? It just goes to show how little we know about the natural world still. Invertebrates in the uplands seem to have had hardly any attention.

And finally, nothing to do with globeflowers or flies but we found this toad at a place called Tod Hole so we just had to say goodbye from 'Toad of Tod Hole'!

I'm Toad of Tod Hole!

John & Clare


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home