Honorable Mention - Elliot Gardner

Graduate Student, Department of Plant Biology and Conservation

"Vector"

In order to reproduce, stationary plants need help to transport pollen. The earliest flowering plants were pollinated by insects, but in many cases evolved to rely on wind pollination. Wind pollinated plants tend to lose traits such as showy flowers and sticky pollen since they’re no longer needed to attract pollinators. 

It was believed that without showy flowers, these plants would seldom revert back to insect pollination. But, Gardner and his colleagues believe that the jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) may be an exception to this rule. 

In this image, a grain of jackfruit pollen (purple) is stuck to the side of a midge (an insect the size of a fruit fly), whose long hairs are shown in yellow. Jackfruit evolved from a wind-pollinated ancestor and has tiny inconspicuous flowers typical of wind-pollinated species. It appears, however, that the flowers' strong smell attracts midges whose tiny hooked hairs are able to snag the pollen despite its lack of sticky coating. 

Technique: Scanning electron microscopy, false coloring

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