Pollination under water! (And big words)

When I think about pollination I think of flowers and bees.

Wind can also help pollinate flowers, as well as butterflies and bats and a host of other creatures.

What about plants under the water that need to be pollinated? Call me naive but I never thought about this before.

Apparently plants under the water can pollinated by the flow of the water: the pollen from one plant detaches and flows through the water to another plant. Then POOF! Pollination. Technically this is called hydrophilic pollination.

But a new article in Nature Communications suggests that there are little creatures under the water that perform the same function as bees!

They studied Thalassia testudinum, or turtlegrass, which is a type of marine seagrass that forms meadows in sandy or shallow places in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. (Meadows in the sea? How cool!) Tiny white flowers open up at night that contain sticky stuff containing pollen and sugary substances.


It just so happens that at night, a lot of teeny-tiny marine invertebrate species are active in the water. The researchers witnessed these little creatures feeding off of the flowers and pollen getting stuck to their bodies. The creatures then visited other flowers and voila: pollination! They made a really nice You Tube video of this.

The researchers concluded that turtlegrass has a “mixed pollination syndrome”: hydrophilous (movement of the water) and zoobenthophilous (benthos refers to the community of organisms that live on or near the sea bottom). This is very similar to flowering plants above the water that rely on wind and pollinators to reproduce.



Van Tussenbroek, B. I., et al. (2016). Experimental evidence of pollination in marine flowers by invertebrate fauna. Nature Communications, 7, 12980 doi: 10.1038/ncomms12980.

Wikipedia. (2016). Thalassia testudinum. Retrieved September 29, 2016 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalassia_testudinum


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