Flies Wreak Havoc On Japan’s Endangered Orchids

Scientists in Japan have demonstrated that endangered orchid species in the country are being threatened by seed-eating flies.

AsianScientist (Oct. 1, 2018) – In a study published in Ecology, a research group in Japan has discovered that flies that feed on seeds are threatening endangered orchids.

With over 20,000 species classified, orchids are one of the most diverse groups of flowering plants, and the unique shape of their flowers has entranced people for many years. Unfortunately, this popularity has led to orchid overharvesting. Combined with the loss of habitat caused by development, this means that over 70 percent of Japan’s native orchid species are classified as endangered by the Ministry of the Environment.

In the present study, researchers led by Associate Professor Kenji Suetsugu at Kobe University, Japan, found that a species of seed-feeding fly (Japanagromyza tokunagai) is critically damaging the seed production of multiple orchid species. After artificially pollinating five species of orchids in Japan’s Kanto region, the team covered some specimens with bags to prevent J. tokunagai from entering, and left others uncovered.

Afterwards, they compared the quality and amount of seeds produced by each plant. They demonstrated that in all five species, damage caused by J. tokunagai reduced seed production by over 95 percent.

The researchers further noted that the damage caused by J. tokunagai may be intensifying in recent years. They suggested two reasons for their observations: first, the flies are non-native species that have been introduced into areas where they lack natural predators; and second, because the orchid populations have become fragmented.

“Going forward, we want to shed more light on the damage caused by J. tokunagai. We plan to do this by quantifying the damage in other areas of Japan, and by testing the theory that J. tokunagai is a non-native species through genetic analysis,” said Suetsugu.

The article can be found at: Suetsugu et al. (2018) Substantial Impact of Seed-feeding Fly on Seed Production of Five Endangered Japanese Orchids.


Source: Kobe University.
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