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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Note on Emerging Science

Air Date: Week of

A nighttime camera captured the cricket emerging from an orchid blossom. (Photo: Claire Michenau and Jacques Fournel)

The birds and the bees, and the crickets? Researchers have discovered a new species of cricket that pollinates an orchid. Living on Earth’s Bridget Macdonald reports.


YOUNG: Just ahead – sure you’ve heard a cat playing the piano – but just wait till you hear what chimps can do! First this Note on Emerging Science from Bridget Macdonald.


MACDONALD: The latest buzz about pollination usually involves bees. Now, scientists have stumbled upon an unusual pollinator – an insect known for hopping instead of hovering.


MACDONALD: Bats, bees and butterflies are known for spreading pollen between flowering plants as they hunt for nectar. But strange new relationships can blossom when a plant moves out of the range of its natural mate.

European researchers were shocked when they saw the late-night activities of a new species of raspy cricket on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The scientists used night-vision cameras to spy on the nocturnal cricket as it hopped out of an orchid, its head covered in pollen.

A nighttime camera captured the cricket emerging from an orchid blossom. (Photo: Claire Michenau and Jacques Fournel)

Hours of footage proved that the relationship is monogamous: this species of cricket is the orchid’s only partner. The sighting was the first ever report of pollination by an insect in the order that includes grasshoppers, katydids and locusts. The discovery shows how important inter-species partnerships can be in a diverse ecosystem.

And for scientists wondering about the extent to which crickets pollinate, the familiar chorus of nighttime chirping may never sound the same. That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science. I’m Bridget Macdonald.



Read the paper on cricket pollination published in the Annals of Botany.


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