Just a few short weeks ago we were discussing seagrasses with one of the aquarium hobby’s most ardent proponents of seagrass aquariums, Julian Sprung. The topic of underwater pollination of seagrass came up, and we supposed that there might be some mechanism aside from pollen being simply swept up by current.
As it turns out, researchers have long suspected that direct pollination by various underwater creatures could be possible – after all flowers are special adaptations to luring pollinators, and seagrasses are known to flower underwater. Wouldn’t you know it, but it just so happens that the underwater flowers of seagrasses are just as adept at attracting critters to its flowers underwater, as other plants are on land.
We already know that birds, bees and many species of flies play a very important role in pollinating land plants. Now we can add crustaceans and polychaete worms to the list of plant pollinators. Scientists have observed the attraction of these critters to seagrass flowers for many years, but new aquarium experiments have shown that pollination between male and female flowers is happening thanks to these underwater visitors.
The best part of this story, for our readers, is learning that the research was undertaken in aquarium experiments. Every time science uses aquariums to prove and test theories that are not possible or feasible in the field, we crack a smile knowing that the aquarium community is partly responsible for laying the foundations that led to these discoveries. [Nature]