Gooyera orchids

An orchid named Goodyera henryi is found in mainland Japan where it is exclusively pollinated by bumblebees, which have long tongues and reach deep into the flowers.  Researchers from Kobe University were surprised to find this orchid on Kozu Island a remote island where there are no bumblebees. Another orchid named Goodyera similis lives on the island and is pollinated by wasps, which have shorter tongues than bumblebees. 

The researchers studied the genetics of the two orchid species and found that the orchids identified as G. henryi were actually hybrids with G. similis.  They also noted the island G. henryi orchids had shorter flower tubes than the mainland orchids. 

The hybridisation probably occurred when a wasp that had already visited a G. similis flower deposited pollen into a G. henryi flower, which then produced offspring with flower tubes short enough for wasps to collect pollen as well as deposit it, and therefore enable the plant to continue reproducing on the island without bumblebees. The researchers commented in their summary: “Our findings suggest that the absence of bumblebees can blur plant species boundaries.” 

One of the research team also commented: “The most exciting aspect of this result is probably the implication for our understanding of how plants can adapt and evolve in response to changing ecological conditions, particularly in the context of declining pollinator populations.”

References: Kobe University News 18 October 2023; ScienceDaily 17 October 2023; New Phytologist 17 October 2023 DOI: 10.1111/nph.19325

Editorial Comment:  There is no adaptation or evolution here. Neither species has turned into a different kind of plant, so there is no evolution.  The fact that the two orchid species could combine and produce fertile offspring shows they are one kind with varying flower tube length. 

The change in the flower tube length in G. henryi is the result of genes from the shorter flowered variant being introduced into the long-tubed variant by the wasps.  The comment about species being blurred is really an admission that these two orchid species really belong together. 

We predict that as more genetic studies are done on more separately named plant species many will be found to variations within the one kind. 

And yes, there are even fossil orchids to check this out on! See our report First Fossil Orchid here

Creation Research News 15 November 2023

Photo of G. henryi Alpsdake CC BY-SA 4.0

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