Sea Bees Pollinate Turtle Grass

A recent study documented the role of “sea bees” (tiny crustaceans and polychaetes commonly found in seagrass beds)  in the pollination of Turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum).  Before this study,  it was thought that Turtle grass was only pollinated by water-flow! See the article abstract below for more information and video of sea bees here!

“Pollen transport by water-flow (hydrophily) is a typical, and almost exclusive, adaptation of plants to life in the marine environment. It is thought that, unlike terrestrial environments, animals are not involved in pollination in the sea. The male flowers of the tropical marine angiosperm Thalassia testudinum open-up and release pollen in mucilage at night when invertebrate fauna is active. Here we present experimental evidence that, in the absence of water-flow, these invertebrates visit the flowers, carry and transfer mucilage mass with embedded pollen from the male flowers to the stigmas of the female flowers. Pollen tubes are formed on the stigmas, indicating that pollination is successful. Thus, T. testudinum has mixed abiotic–biotic pollination. We propose a zoobenthophilous pollination syndrome (pollen transfer in the benthic zone by invertebrate animals) which shares many characteristics with hydrophily, but flowers are expected to open-up during the night.”


van Tussenbroek, B. I., N. Villamil, J. Márquez-Guzmán, R. Wong, L. V. Monroy-Velázquez, and V. Solis-Weiss. 2016. Experimental evidence of pollination in marine flowers by invertebrate fauna. Nature Communications 7:12980. doi:10.1038/ncomms12980

By | 2017-12-01T14:01:51-04:00 December 12th, 2016|Categories: seagrass|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

About the Author:

Ryann Rossi
My general research interests lie in the ecology of marine coastal ecosystems. I am most interested in the role plant diseases have in shaping the ecology of coastal and estuarine environments. I am currently studying the role of a plant pathogen in a die-off of Red Mangroves in The Bahamas. Follow Ryann Rossi

One Comment

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    Dawn Nielsen December 12, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    That is awesome! Love learning about this sort of thing. Keep up the good work!

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