Slow & slimy, pollinating army

So you thought only honey bees and birds help in pollination? While the majority of pollination is done by birds, bees and butterflies, we have some unlikely pollinators in the world. Yes we are talking about snails. Unlikely may be a tad offensive to the cute buttons that slide, slowest might be the best way to describe them.

Contrary to the belief that snails are destructive, scientists at the Khoisnam Sarma and his team at the Department of Botany, University of Delhi have found that they do not affect the natural fecundity of Morning-glories. Pollination in rock-rose plants by snails and honey bees represents an interesting guild, which is of adaptive significance in achieving high reproductive success. 

Slow & slimy, pollinating army

Sarma’s team was able to demonstrate the incidence of snail pollination in the rainy-season weed, which is also visited by honey bees. Flowers open in the morning and last only for half a day.   But on rainy days when bees are not active they depend exclusively on snails for pollination. Analysis of freshly digested floral parts in the gut of the snails and their faecal analyses clearly demonstrated their preference for pollen grains/anthers. Importantly, as the stigmatic lobes or other parts of the pistil are not consumed by snails, opportunity for pollination and fertilization is not diminished. Thus, snail pollination is not destructive but found to help improve the chances of pollination. 

This rare instance of malacophily (when pollination of plants occurs through snails) points to the need to examine rainy-season flowering plants or those inhabiting water bodies more thoroughly, for a better understanding of the role of snails in pollination. We are often left wondering about the numerous secrets and techniques plants have developed to employ other species to help them to not just survive but to thrive.

Join us on this journey of unraveling nature’s best kept secrets in this series of #PlantScienceFacts

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