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Partners in Pollination Image of flower
Introduction- Page 3
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Scientists estimate that there are many thousands of animal pollination partners, ranging from invertebrates (animals without backbones) such as bees, butterflies, wasps, flies, and beetles to vertebrates (animals with backbones)such as birds, bats, and other mammals. In North America, most of the pollinators are insects like bees, butterflies and beetles, or vertebrates like hummingbirds and bats. But elsewhere in the world pollinators can be primates (like lemurs), Australian possums, arboreal (tree-dwelling) rodents, or even reptiles like the gecko lizard.

The animal pollinators carry the pollen in different ways. Vertebrate pollinators like birds or bats carry pollen in their feathers or hair. Although invertebrates like bees and butterflies lack hair, they have something just as suitable for carrying pollen: bristles situated on their legs, head, and other body parts. Honeybees have tiny baskets on their legs for carrying pollen back to the hive. When butterflies use their long proboscis, or nectar-gathering appendage, to sip nectar from tubular flowers, they get peppered involuntarily with pollen on the proboscis or the head.

Plants use various techniques to attract their particular animal partners. Flowers are actually cleverly designed reproductive organs that incorporate all kinds of lures. The petals, for example, may serve as a landing platform for a visiting insect. When a bee lands on the lower petal of a snapdragon, its weight causes a stamen to swing down and dust the bee with pollen. Petals of many plant species even have lines or other marks that guide the pollinator to the nectar.

Another type of lure is aroma. A flower's scent must appeal to its pollinator. Many people appreciate the sweet smell of honeysuckle on a midsummer night. At that time, it's at its strongest to draw the honeysuckle's pollinators: nocturnal moths who "smell" with their feathery antennae. While most flowers have a sweet, pleasant fragrance, there are exceptions. One example is the Rafflesia flower, whose "rotten meat" aroma, which is offensive to most humans, is precisely what attracts its pollination partner: the fly.

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