Orchids are among the most endangered plants in the world. It is accented by the fact that there are very specific relationships between orchids and their pollinators. The most vulnerable are species dependent on a single pollinator, including Leporella fimbriata. This orchid found in South Australia is completely dependent on the pollination of male winged ants Myrmecia urens. Pollination occurs due to the sexual deception by the orchid – the male ant confuses the orchid flower with its female and tries to “fertilize it” while pollinating the orchid.
A study by a team of scientists led by Marta Kolanowska from CzechGlobe, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, focused on estimating the future distribution of suitable niches for this orchid and its pollinator using three machine learning algorithms. The results show that, depending on the algorithm, the pollinator will lose more or less suitable niches. At the same time, due to global warming, it is most likely that the orchid’s flowering phase and the mating time of the ant will not be time-synchronized. This will reduce the likelihood of successful reproduction of Leporella fimbriata and increase the risk of its extinction.
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