Unsung Heroes of Pollination

A snow skink in Tasmania. Credit: Tindo2 / Creative Commons

While we love butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and bats (here’s the proof), some pollinators might feel a little sad that they are not better known. But now is their moment of glory! We want to celebrate some of these unique species and help broaden the pollination conversation.

The Noronha skink. Credit: Jim Skea / Creative Commons

Lizards, Geckos, and Skinks

One pollinator you may not know about is Brazil’s Noronha skink, which drinks the nectar of the flowers of the mulungu tree and gets pollen on its scales. It then transports the pollen to other flowers. Scientists who studied pollination relationships between 37 species of lizards believe that most pollination relationships between them and plants take place on islands, suggesting that there are some unique ecological or evolutionary factors that make these relationships possible in isolated locations.

In Tasmania, a snow skink only found there seems to have a visible co-evolutionary relationship with Richea scoparia plants (shown at the top of post). It is only after the skinks tear off part of the flower and eat them that insects can access the parts of the flowers used for pollination.

In Brazil, the flowers of a Mulungu tree can be pollinated by the Noronha skink. Credit: Tatiana Gerus / Creative Commons

Tiny Crustaceans

Turtlegrass, a common seagrass, is an underwater flowering plant! Credit: James St. John / Creative Commons

In a study published in 2016, scientists discovered how tiny crustaceans in the ocean helped pollinate seagrasses, which are flowering plants. Bet you didn’t see that coming! Just like on land, the scientists believe that the crustaceans move from plant to plant, getting pollen on their bodies which they then transport such that pollination can occur.


A wingless cockroach (Catara rugosicollis) in Malaysia, one of the three places (so far) where pollination relationships between cockroaches and some plants are documented. Credit: Bernard DUPONT / Creative Commons

Yes, cockroaches! Are you excited? While it’s admittedly a new area of research, pollination relationships between cockroaches and plants were discovered in three countries around the world, with the latest being in Chile.


Mosquitoes on a flower. Credit: Ignacio Torres / Creative Commons.

Not all mosquitoes feed on blood. Only the females feed on blood, and only when they are producing eggs. Male mosquitoes feed exclusively on plant nectar, sometimes serving as vectors for pollen transmission.

The Self-Pollinators

The bee orchid (Ophrys apifera). Credit: Natural History Man / Creative Commons

Who needs a friend when you can pollinate yourself? Actually, we DO like having friends. But some species such as the bee orchid, which is found predominantly in Europe, can move their reproductive parts to self-pollinate when the conditions make it necessary.

The cape grey mongoose lives in South Africa, and while a carnivore, has also been documented drinking nectar and potentially serving as a pollinator. Credit: John Richfield / Creative Commons

Even MORE Unsung Heroes of Pollination are Out There!

While we think we’ve helped shine the light on some new animals to think about when it comes to pollination, there are still quite a lot more unsung heroes. For instance, a large variety of insects like ants, beetles, moths, and even spiders are pollinators. Some mammals also lend a hand (or paw), including lemurs, rodents, mongooses, and honey possums–which might have one of the best animal names of all time.

Check out more unusual pollinators from the U.S. Forest Service.

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