An ancient push-pull pollination mechanism in cycads

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Science Advances  12 Jun 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 24, eaay6169
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay6169


Most cycads engage in brood-site pollination mutualisms, yet the mechanism by which the Cycadales entice pollination services from diverse insect mutualists remains unknown. Here, we characterize a push-pull pollination mechanism between a New World cycad and its weevil pollinators that mirrors the mechanism between a distantly related Old World cycad and its thrips pollinators. The behavioral convergence between weevils and thrips, combined with molecular phylogenetic dating and a meta-analysis of thermogenesis and coordinated patterns of volatile attraction and repulsion suggest that a push-pull pollination mutualism strategy is ancestral in this ancient, dioecious plant group. Hence, it may represent one of the earliest insect/plant pollination mechanisms, arising long before the evolution of visual floral signaling commonly used by flowering plants.

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