Orchids made on 3D printer reveal Dracula secrets according to articles in ScienceDaily and Science (AAAS) News 23 February and New Phytologist 2016; doi: 10.1111/nph.13855, published online 15 February 2016. A team of scientists from University of Oregon have been studying a group of orchids named Dracula orchids, which grow in the cloud forests of South America. The genus does include one species named Dracula vampira because of its bat-like appearance, but the name Dracula does not refer to blood or bats – it actually means “little dragon.”
The flowers of different species vary in colours and patterns, but they all have three outer petals and a central petal, the labellum, which is shaped like a small mushroom, complete with a pattern of ridges like the gills of a mushroom.
The orchids are pollinated by flies that live and breed on mushrooms, which also grow in the forest. The flies also eat yeasts that live on the surface of the flowers, and often mate on the flowers, then lay their eggs on the nearby mushrooms.
In order to work out how the orchid attracted the flies, the scientists worked with an artist from University of California San Diego to produce realistic artificial flowers of a species named Dracula lafleurii using a 3D printer. They could then alter the colour and patterning of the petals and apply various scents that attract flies. They found “a remarkable overlap in the volatile chemistry”, (the scent chemicals) produced by both the flowers and mushrooms.
They also found the labellum was the source of the scent, so that it looked and smelt like the mushrooms. The flowers needed the right appearance and smell to get the flies to stay long enough to transfer pollen. The plant is pollinated when flies land on the labellum, which is just below the flower’s reproductive column, the structure containing the pollen. The reproductive column is just the right size of a few species of fly to fit into. Barbara Roy, one of the researchers, explained: “What the orchid wants the fly to do when it arrives is to crawl into the column, whereupon the orchid sticks a pollinium (package of pollen) onto the fly so that the fly can’t possibly get it off. The fly then goes to another orchid, which then pulls it off”.
Orchids are well known for using mimicry to attract pollinators, but imitating a mushroom is certainly odd. Barbara Roy commented: “Mimicry is one of the best examples of natural selection that we have. How mimicry evolves is a big question in evolutionary biology. In this case, there are about 150 species of these orchids. How are they pollinated? What sorts of connections are there? It’s a case where these orchids plug into an entire endangered system”.
Editorial Comment: If they were honest the scientists should have worked out from the amount of creative design they had to put into their study of one flower that making the 3D printout flowers involved a lot of creative design, and that was just to produce the shape of the flowers. It didn’t produce its own colours and scent chemicals. Further creative design was needed to apply the colour patterns and scent chemicals, and they only got those right because they gained information about them by using their intelligence to analyse the chemicals from the real flowers and mushrooms. When all that was achieved, they still only had an inert model that may have attracted flies, but had no pollen, and no means of attaching it or detaching it to or from the flies.
We agree these orchids certainly are part of an entire system, but we predict the questions being asked by these evolutionist scientists will not be answered by using evolutionary concepts. We will keep repeating the truth that natural selection cannot explain how orchids gained all the features needed to become part of a working system. Natural selection cannot make any chemicals that an orchid does not already have. Selection can only work on whatever features a living thing already possesses. Growing near mushrooms or being invaded by flies is not going to add any genes needed to make the scent, or change the form of the labellum to look like a mushroom.
In fact, this neatly integrated system of orchids, mushrooms and flies could come about only by the work of a creative Designer, who made all the parts of the system to work together. For more information see Genesis 1 and Colossians 1 in the Bible. (Ref. pollination, ecosystems, botany, insects, engineering)
To see photos of real and 3D printed versions of Dracula lafleurii click on links above.
Creation Research Update
3 August 2016
Creation Research Australia