Single chemical links orchid and wasp, as described in Science, vol. 302, p437, 17 October 2003.

Some orchids are pollinated by male insects that try to mate with the flowers. This bizarre behaviour occurs because the flowers produce chemicals that are the same as chemicals emitted by female insects. Usually a mixture of common chemicals is involved.

A group of scientists have studied an Australian orchid named Chiloglottis trapeziformi which is only pollinated by a wasp named Neozeleboria cryptoides. They were surprised to find that the chemical signal involved was “one unique compound, requiring a rigid biosynthetic process and a highly specific receptor a system with seemingly limited evolutionary flexibility.”

Editorial Comment: “Limited evolutionary flexibility” means that if either the orchid or the wasp got any of the steps wrong in making this compound, emitting it at the right time and making the receptors that detect the chemical in the air, then the orchid would die out for lack of pollinators.

The highly specific relationship between some plants and their pollinators is the classic evolutionary problem – both orchid and wasp had to evolve their part of the system at the same time or it wouldn’t work at all. It is no problem for Biblical creation. God, who designed both the orchid and the wasp, had no problem putting a highly specific biochemical pathway in the plant plus the chemical receptor in the insect so that the system worked from the beginning.

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