Class Year



mimicry, Charles Darwin, pseudocopulation, mutualism


Orchidaceae are a family of plants that are known for tricking their pollinators through means of deceptive pollination and sexually deceptive mechanisms. A deceptive flower is one that offers no reward to its pollinator, but still attracts pollinators by mimicking a plant or an insect that does offer a reward. Sexual deception occurs when a plant sends a signal to its pollinator, tricking the insect into thinking the plant is available for sex, despite the pollinator being biologically unable to successfully copulate with the plant. Orchid fertilization is of interest to evolutionary biologists who aim to uncover how these rewardless plants continue to be pollinated by reward-seeking pollinators. The use of phenotypic variation, strong olfactory cues, and adapted plant parts to lure in insects are some of the ways in which orchids achieve success. Other findings suggest that orchids have adapted to ensure cross-fertilization, as opposed to self-fertilization, in order to produce more viable offspring. In this review I will explore how the use of deception, rewardlessness, and pheromones allow for the continued reproductive success of several orchid species.


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