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Old Jun 15, 2010, 11:44 PM   #21
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I have been thinking about the questions asked here for a while, and this is what I can contribute:

This orchid looks so much like a moth that I wondered what its pollinator might be, so I did some digging and found out that it is indeed pollinated by a moth, although I didn't find out which one. I also found out that there are two Purple fringed Orchids, the Greater and the Lesser; this one is the Greater Purple-fringed Orchid, Platanthera grandiflora. It differs from the Lesser (P. psycodes) in the configuration of the pollen sacs and the shape of the aperture into the nectary, and it blooms earlier, all of which means that different moths must be the pollinators, the morphology and timing of each closely matching that of the other.

Orchids and their pollinators are examples of coevolution, in which they have evolved together to become so specialized that each flower has only one pollinator, and each pollinator only one food source. This assures that (1) the flower's pollen, deposited on the pollinator, will reach only the same type of flower, and (2) that each pollinator has an exclusive food source that no other can use.

And what of the purple color of the flowers (there are also yellow and green fringed orchids)?

I've never seen a purple moth,
and I hope I never see one,
but I can tell you anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.
(apologies to Gellett Burgess)

Insects see a different range of the spectrum than we do, farther into the ultra-violet, so flowers can look very different to them than to us. Photographs taken with appropriate illumination and filtration often reveal patterns on the flowers invisible to us, so what the moth sees and what we see may not be the same.

I have no knowledge of why dragonfly colors develop only after a time following emergence, but I have a guess. The sexual dimorphism in coloration is related to sex recognition, and the mating ritual of dragonflies is rather - shall we say - rigorous. It takes a while for the skeleton to harden after emergence from the larval skin, so perhaps the delayed coloration prevents premature attempts at mating (other insects can mate immediately, so sexual maturation itself may not be delayed in dragonflies, either - only the means of accomplishing the act). In the case of the eventually brightly colored males, the delay may also render them less conspicuous to predators until they are able to fly and have a better chance of avoiding predation.
If life brings you lemons, you can make lemonade.
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