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Pollination Ecology of Lowiaceae (Zingiberales): Nocturnal Carrion-Beetle Pollination of Orchidantha virosa

Premise of research. Previous investigations showed the occurrence of diurnal dung-beetle pollination in Orchidantha (Lowiaceae). Though many dung, carrion, and scavenger beetles are exclusively nocturnal, comprehensive night observations were never performed for this genus. In addition, some small mammals were occasionally observed feeding on flowers of Orchidantha during the night. Thus, the present study of pollination biology with observations throughout night fills a significant gap in our knowledge of the ecology of these plants.

Methodology. Pollination of O. virosa was studied using day and night visual observations as well as video and photo monitoring. Pollen grains, flowers, and captured pollinators were investigated using LM and SEM.

Pivotal results. The flowers of O. virosa are visited by diurnal flies, ants, and nocturnal carrion beetles, together with many other occasional visitors. Among them, only the carrion beetles from the genus Phaeochrous were shown to carry pollen of O. virosa. Nocturnal pollination was documented for the genus Orchidantha for the first time.

Conclusions. Our study confirms the occurrence of coprocantharophily in Orchidantha. Taking all the features together, we can assume the described type of pollination (nocturnal deceptive carrion-beetle pollination without floral traps) to be rare within beetle pollination. We briefly review the knowledge of reproductive ecology in the genus Orchidantha and propose diversity of pollination modes (nocturnal and diurnal) within the family.