Possum pollination found, as described in Science (AAAS) News and ScienceDaily 12 February 2020, In Defense of Plants 16 February 2020, and Ecology, 11 February 2020; doi: 10.1002/ecy.3001. 

Scientists in South America have studied an obscure plant named Scybalium fungiforme, that lives most of its life underground as root parasite, but does produce flowers that project above ground.  The flowers were covered by scale-like bracts that are too large and stiff to be opened by insects, so scientists wondered what could pollinate the flowers.  

In the early 1990s Patrícia Morellato of São Paulo State University predicted it was pollinated by opossums, as they could use their sharp opposable claws to open the flowers.  In May 2019 a team of scientists led by Felipe Amorim of São Paulo State University set up an infrared camera and confirmed that the big-eared opossum (Didelphis aurita) did open the flowers with its claws, and as it fed from the flower nectar it also collected pollen on its face.

After the opossum had left, the flowers remained opened and other pollinators, including bees, wasps and hummingbirds visited the flowers and collected pollen and nectar. 

Patrícia Morellato made the opossum prediction based on the “pollination syndrome hypothesis”, i.e. the concept that “floral traits are shaped through natural selection by the most frequent and effective floral visitors” and “floral morphology is a result of convergent evolution of unrelated plant species to specific pollinator groups”.

In Defense of Plants, Science, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment:  Predicting the likely pollinator of a plant based on it flower structure is a logical thing to do, but it does not explain how the flowers came to have that structure.  The match between plants and pollinators only works after both are fully functional. 

Forgive us for repeating the obvious, but the presence of opossums did not, and could not, make this flower change from an insect pollinated plant to an opossum pollinated plant.  The presence of opossums certainly helped it to survive in places where opossums already lived and were searching for nectar to eat. 

This is natural selection at work! But natural selection did not give this plant its unusual flowers – it just enabled them to survive with the “floral traits” it already had.  Plants and their pollinators are some of the best evidence, not only for God’s brilliant creative design, but for the fact that it had to be created in a very short time, as stated in Genesis.  Pollination systems only work when the pollinators and flowers are fully functional, and they have to work in the first generation, or the plants will die out and pollinators go hungry. 

Predicting pollinators on the basis of flower structure has been associated with evolution ever since Darwin predicted an orchid with a very long nectar tube would have to be pollinated by a large moth with a long proboscis.  He was correct about the moth orchid link, but failed absolutely to show how it evolved by chance or by natural selection.   

News vol. 20, No. 3
4 March 2020
Creation Research Australia