A record-breaking pollen catapult. Nature 435:164

Department of Biology, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267, USA.
Nature (Impact Factor: 41.46). 06/2005; 435(7039):164. DOI: 10.1038/435164a
Source: PubMed


The release of stored elastic energy often drives rapid movements in animal systems1, 2, and plant components employing this mechanism should be able to move with similar speed. Here we describe how the flower stamens of the bunchberry dogwood (Cornus canadensis) rely on this principle to catapult pollen into the air as the flower opens explosively3, 4, 5. Our high-speed video observations show that the flower opens in less than 0.5 ms — to our knowledge, the fastest movement so far recorded in a plant.

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Available from: Dwight L Whitaker, May 26, 2015
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    • "Biomechanical traits such as closed corollas in Phlomis (Brantjes 1981) and breaking pollen catapult in Cornus canadensis (Edwards et al. 2005) could confront visitors with physical obstacles that only the high-quality pollinators that can overcome. On the other hand, even when all visitors can pass the biomechanical structures such staminal levers in Salvia (Claßen-Bockhoff et al. 2004) and papilionate legume flowers (Córdoba and Cocucci 2011), such structures can still be examples of demanding environments if they impose costs on the visitors. "
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    ABSTRACT: A central question in the field of plant-pollinator interactions is whether and how can plants choose the optimal pollinators when plants cannot directly assess the quality of floral visitors. To answer this question and to provide a new perspective to this problem, we develop a screening game modeling the plant-pollinator interaction. We propose that some floral traits could be interpreted as an entry barrier with a strategic cost the plants impose on floral visitors. The pollinators decide to further interact with the plant only if the cost is not prohibitive. Therefore, by imposing the right level of costs, the plants may achieve interactions only with high-quality pollinators without a priori knowing the quality of visitors.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Evolutionary Ecology
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    • "Power-amplified systems range from insect-catching chameleon tongues and the fast-closing mandibles of trap jaw ants to exploding fungal spores and the suction traps of carnivorous plants (de Groot and van Leeuwen 2004; Pringle et al. 2005; Patek et al. 2006, 2011; Vincent et al. 2011). Such systems are omnipresent, diverse, and have evolved multiple times in animals, plants, and fungi (e.g., Rothschild et al. 1972; Bennet- Clark 1975; Gronenberg 1996; Patek et al. 2004; Edwards et al. 2005; Lappin et al. 2006; Nüchter et al. 2006; Deban et al. 2007; Burrows et al. 2008; Van Wassenbergh et al. 2008; Noblin et al. 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: The dynamic interplay among structure, function, and phylogeny form a classic triad of influences on the patterns and processes of biological diversification. Although these dynamics are widely recognized as important, quantitative analyses of their interactions have infrequently been applied to biomechanical systems. Here we analyze these factors using a fundamental biomechanical mechanism: power amplification. Power-amplified systems use springs and latches to generate extremely fast and powerful movements. This study focuses specifically on the power amplification mechanism in the fast raptorial appendages of mantis shrimp (Crustacea: Stomatopoda). Using geometric morphometric and phylogenetic comparative analyses, we measured evolutionary modularity and rates of morphological evolution of the raptorial appendage's biomechanical components. We found that "smashers" (hammer-shaped raptorial appendages) exhibit lower modularity and 10-fold slower rates of morphological change when compared to non-smashers (spear-shaped or undifferentiated appendages). The morphological and biomechanical integration of this system at a macroevolutionary scale and the presence of variable rates of evolution reveal a balance between structural constraints, functional variation, and the "roles of development and genetics" in evolutionary diversification.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · Evolution
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    • "1–0 . 5 mN for Cornus canadensis (Edwards et al., 2005) to the relatively high 49 mN of P. fruticosa (Lamiaceae) (Brantjes, 1981a). Flower operative strength measured in the present study at 8 . "
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    ABSTRACT: A test was made of the hypothesis that papilionate legume flowers filter pollinators according to their ability to exert strength to open flowers to access rewards. In addition, interactions with pollen vectors were expected to explain the structural complexity of the architecture of these flowers since operative flower strength may be determined by a combination of morphological traits which form part of an intrafloral functional module. Six papilionate species were studied: Collaea argentina, Desmodium uncinatum, Galactia latisiliqua, Lathyrus odoratus, Spartium junceum and Tipuana tipu. Measurements were made of the strength needed to open keels and the strength that pollinators were capable of exerting. Morphological traits of all petals were also measured to determine which of them could be either mutually correlated or correlated with operative strength and moment of strength and participated in a functional module. It was observed that pollinators were capable in all cases of exerting forces higher and often several times higher than that needed to access floral rewards, and no association could be detected between floral operative strength and strength exerted by the corresponding pollinators. On the other hand, strong and significant correlations were found among morphometric traits and, of these, with operative strength and moment. This was particularly evident among traits of the keel and the wings, presumably involved in the functioning of the floral moveable mechanism. Though visitors are often many times stronger than the operative strength of the flowers they pollinate, exceptionally weak bees such as Apis mellifera cannot open the strongest flowers. On the other hand, strong correlations among certain petal morphometric traits (particularly between the keel and wings) give support to the idea that an intrafloral module is associated with the functioning of the mechanism of these legume flowers. In addition, the highly significant correlations found across petals support the view of functional phenotypic integration transcending the ontogenetic organization of flower structure.
    Preview · Article · Aug 2011 · Annals of Botany
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