20 July, 2015

The forgotten pollinators – First field evidence for nectar-feeding by primarily insectivorous elephant-shrews

by Petra Wester

A Cape rock elephant-shrew licks nectar from flowers of the Pagoda Lily
Pollination of plants by non-flying mammals, such as mice (rodents, Rodentia), is a rarely observed phenomenon. Previously, elephant-shrews (Macro-scelidea, Afrotheria), small African mammals looking similar to mice, but not being related to them, were believed to be purely insectivorous. Occasional flower visits of elephant-shrews in captivity were interpreted as a by-product of the search for insects. Only recently, it was demonstrated that under lab conditions elephant-shrews regularly lick nectar from flowers. However, field observations of flower-visiting elephant-shrews and their role as pollinators were completely missing. In this study, I present the first evidence for flower visits and nectar consumption for elephant-shrews in the field. With video camcorders and infrared lights I recorded Cape rock elephant-shrews (Elephantulus edwardii) beside Namaqua rock mice (Micaelamys namaquensis) visiting flowers of the Pagoda lily (Whiteheadia bifolia, Asparagaceae) under natural conditions in the Namaqualand of South Africa.  

Read the whole summary in: English!
Read the scientific publication in JPE.

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