Aspidistras, amphipods and Oz: Niche opportunism between strangers in a strange land

Authors

  • JOHN G. CONRAN,

    1. Center for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, Environmental Biology, DP312, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
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  • JOHN H. BRADBURY

    1. Center for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, Environmental Biology, DP312, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
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John Conran
Email: john.conran@adelaide.edu.au

Abstract

The subterranean flowers of Aspidistra in their natural habitat of moist temperate East Asian forests are reportedly pollinated by terrestrial amphipods. Seed set by cultivated plants growing in Adelaide, South Australia, suggests that a pollinator shift has occurred and the results show that despite their different origins, the apparently highly specialized pollination system of the Asian Aspidistra can be accomplished by an introduced eastern Australian amphipod, Arcitalitrus sylvaticus. Pollination is possibly also achieved by cosmopolitan collembolans that feed on pollen inside the floral chambers. It appears that by providing subterranean floral chambers, Aspidistra potentially exploits the cryptic, fugitive behavior of soil or litter-dwelling invertebrates. This supports the theory of asymmetrical pollination where an apparently specialized flower is pollinated successfully through the generalized behavior of its pollinators.

Ancillary