Background and aims – Pollination of flowers is performed mainly by insects, but also by vertebrates. In South Africa, beside birds, non-flying mammals contribute to pollination. During video surveillance of plants adapted to non-flying mammal pollination, surprisingly, lizards were observed at the flowers. The question was addressed whether the lizards consume nectar and whether they could be potential pollinators of these plants.
Methods – Flowering Massonia grandiflora in the Cederberg and Eucomis regia (both Asparagaceae) in Namaqualand of South Africa were monitored with camcorders and camera traps for potential flower visitors. The footage was analysed for the type of floral visitor, foraging behaviour, contact areas of the plants’ reproductive organs on the animals as well as potential pollen transfer between animals and flowers.
Key results – The Cape cliff lizard Hemicordylus capensis (Cordylidae) visited the flowers of M.
grandiflora and the Namaqua day gecko Rhoptropella ocellata (Gekkonidae) visited E. regia flowers, both licking nectar. Thereby, the lizards touched the reproductive organs of the flowers and got dusted with pollen (at least H. capensis) on the same area of their head.
Conclusions – Visitation and pollination of flowers by lizards is a rarely observed phenomenon, especially in continental ecosystems. These are the first observations of lizards drinking floral nectar on the African mainland. As the areas on the animals’ head where pollen got deposited by the flowers’ anthers overlapped with the areas that touched the flowers’ stigma, it is very likely that the lizards contribute to pollination. However, the lizards’ role and importance as pollinators of the small-mammal-pollinated plants have to be proven by further observations and experiments.
Alexander G., Marais J. (2007) A guide to the reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town, Struik.
Bates M.F., Branch W.R., Bauer A.M., Burger M., Marais J., Alexander G.J., De Villiers M.S. (2014) Atlas and red list of the reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Suricata 1. Pretoria, South African National Biodiversity Institute.
Branch B. (1998) Field guide to snakes and other reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town, Struik.
Carthew S.M., Goldingay R.L. (1997) Non-flying mammals as pollinators. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 12: 104–108. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0169-5347(96)10067-7
Cooper Jr. W.E. (2007) Lizard chemical senses, chemosensory behavior, and foraging mode. In: Reilly S.M., McBrayer L.D., Miles D.B. (eds) Lizard ecology: 237–270. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511752438.010
Dearing D.M., Schall J.J. (1992) Testing models of optimal diet assembly by the generalist herbivorous lizard Cnemidophorus murinus. Ecology 73: 845–858. https://doi.org/10.2307/1940162
Elvers I. (1977) Flower-visiting lizards on Madeira. Botaniska Notiser 130: 231–234.
Faegri K., van der Pijl L. (1971) The principles of pollination ecology. Oxford, Pergamon Press.
Gomes V.G.N., Quirino Z.G.M., Machado I.C. (2013) Pollination and seed dispersal of Melocactus ernestii Vaupel subsp. ernestii (Cactaceae) by lizards: an example of double mutualism. Plant Biology 16: 315–322. https://doi.org/10.1111/plb.12063
Hansen D.M., Beer K., Müller C.B. (2006) Mauritian coloured nectar no longer a mystery: a visual signal for lizard pollinators. Biology Letters 2: 165–168. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2006.0458
Hansen D.M., Müller C.B. (2009) Reproductive ecology of the endangered enigmatic Mauritian Roussea simplex (Rousseaceae). International Journal of Plant Sciences 170: 42–52. https://doi.org/10.1086/593050
Johnson C.M., Pauw A. (2014) Adaptation for rodent pollination in Leucospermum arenarium (Proteaceae) despite rapid pollen loss during grooming. Annals of Botany 113: 931–938. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcu015
Lanse van Rensburg D.A., Mouton P.L.F.N. (2009) Foraging behaviour and use of space in the Graceful Crag Lizard, Pseudocordylus capensis: life on large rock surfaces. African Journal of Herpetology 58: 106–115. https://doi.org/10.1080/21564574.2009.9650030
Le Péchon T., Sanchez M., Humeau L., Gigord L.D.B., Zhang L.-B. (2013) Vertebrate pollination of the endemic Trochetia granulata (Malvaceae) on Réunion. Journal of Tropical Ecology 29: 353–356. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266467413000278
Lindley J. (1826) Massonia grandiflora. Edwards’s Botanical Register 12: t. 958.
Nyhagen D.F., Kragelund C., Olesen J.M., Jones C.G. (2001) Insular interactions between lizards and flowers: flower visitation by an endemic Mauritian gecko. Journal of Tropical Ecology 5: 755–761. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266467401001560
Olesen J.M., Alarcón M., Ehlers B.K., Aldasoro J.J., Roquet C. (2012) Pollination, biogeography and phylogeny of oceanic island bellflowers (Campanulaceae). Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 14: 169–182. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ppees.2012.01.003
Olesen J.M., Valido A. (2003) Lizards as pollinators and seed dispersers: an island phenomenon. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 18: 177–181. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0169-5347(03)00004-1
Pérez-Mellado V., Casas J.L. (1997) Pollination by a lizard on a Mediterranean island. Copeia 1997(3): 593–595. https://doi.org/10.2307/1447565
Perry G., Lazell J. (1997) Anolis stratulus (saddled anole). Nectivory. Herpetological Review 28: 150–151.
Rocha S., Rösler H., Gehring P.-S., Glaw F., Psada D., Harris D.J., Vences M. (2010) Phylogenetic systematics of day geckos, genus Phelsuma, based on molecular and morphological data (Squamata: Gekkonidae). Zootaxa 2429: 1–28. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.194693
Sazima I., Sazima C., Sazima M. (2009) A catch-all leguminous tree: Erythrina velutina visited and pollinated by vertebrates at an oceanic island. Australian Journal of Botany 57: 26–30. https://doi.org/10.1071/BT08179
Schwenk K. (2000) Feeding in lepidosaurs. In: Schwenk K. (ed.) Feeding: form, function and evolution in tetrapod vertebrates: 175–291. San Diego, Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-012632590-4/50009-5
Wester P. (2010) Sticky snack for Sengis: The Cape rock elephant-shrew, Elephantulus edwardii (Macroscelidea), as a pollinator of the Pagoda lily, Whiteheadia bifolia (Hyacinthaceae). Naturwissenschaften 97: 1107–1112. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-010-0723-6
Wester P. (2011) Nectar feeding by the Cape rock elephant-shrew Elephantulus edwardii (Macroscelidea) – a primarily insectivore pollinates the parasite Hyobanche atropurpurea (Orobanchaceae). Flora 206: 997–1001. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.flora.2011.05.010
Wester P. (2015) The forgotten pollinators – First field evidence for nectar-feeding by primarily insectivorous elephant-shrews. Journal of Pollination Ecology 16: 108–111.
Wester P., Johnson S.D., Pauw A. (2019) Scent chemistry is key in the evolutionary transition between insect and mammal pollination in African pineapple lilies. New Phytologist. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.15671
Wester P., Stanway R., Pauw A. (2009) Mice pollinate Whiteheadia bifolia (Hyacinthaceae) – first direct field observations with photographic documentation of rodent pollination in South Africa. South African Journal of Botany 75: 713–719. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sajb.2009.07.005
Whitaker A.H. (1987) The roles of lizards in New Zealand plant reproductive strategies. New Zealand Journal of Botany 25: 315–328. https://doi.org/10.1080/0028825X.1987.10410078
Wiens D., Rourke J.P. (1978) Rodent pollination in southern African Protea species. Nature 276: 71–73.
Wiens D., Rourke J.P., Casper B.B., Rickart E.A., LaPine T.R., Peterson C.J., Channing A. (1983) Nonflying mammal pollination of Southern African Proteas: a non-coevolved system. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 70: 1–31. https://doi.org/10.2307/2399006
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.