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Yucca moths are the only documented pollinator of yuccas, and moth larvae nators and their relationship to the ﬂowering strategy of Yucca. However, the relationship between yucca, intestinal health, and arthritis improvement in Many oral equine joint supplements on the market today contain yucca, .. There is actually a large guild of long-tongued hawk moths and flowers with. Every few years, hefty clusters of white flowers bloom amidst the spikes, The dependence of the yuccas and the yucca moths on each other is a What happened to the trees' close relationship with the moths when this split began? . In the new year, marketers will have to focus on four new essentials.
Having eaten their fill, they head towards the ground to build cocoons, become pupae, and eventually transform into adults.
But not every seed is eaten by the caterpillars, and so this mutually supportive interaction gives rise to the next generations of both the yucca and the yucca moth. The dependence of the yuccas and the yucca moths on each other is a finely balanced affair.
The Yucca and its Moth
If the yucca moth has too short an ovipositor, she will not be able to lay her eggs in the best part of the flower. Once damaged, the flower will drop, and neither yucca seeds nor yucca moth caterpillars will grow. This tight relationship is best observed in the closely related western and eastern species of Joshua trees, which are pollinated by two different but closely related species of yucca moth.
The western form of the Joshua tree has longer flowers, and the moths that pollinate them have correspondingly longer ovipositors. Given that yuccas and yucca moths have relied on one another for 40 million years, and given that new species of both the plants and the insects have arisen in this time, it is worth wondering if these species have arisen together.
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- Two is company
In other words, if a population of yucca plants splits into two distinct species, do the moths pollinating them simultaneously also split into two species? In the case of the Joshua trees described above, the answer seems to be yes.
But look a bit more closely, and the story gets complicated. On the one hand, it is true that the flowers of the two Joshua tree species and the ovipositors of the two moth species are more different from each other than are any other parts of the plants or moths, suggesting that the close linkage between flower and ovipositor is what drove these populations to become new species.
On the other hand, estimations of when these species formed suggest that the tree species diverged from one another a few million years before the moth species did. So what spurred the split of the Joshua tree into two species? Did it begin with the evolution of differences in the shape of flowers, or was that a later development? How quickly did the moths and, specifically, their ovipositors evolve following the split of the trees? These questions remain unanswered.
After mating, female yucca moths find the flowers and collect pollen from the stamens male flower organs.
The Yucca and its Moth | The Prairie Ecologist
They then fly to another Yucca and deposit the pollen into the stigma female flower organfertilizing the ovules plant eggs which will develop into seeds.
Some Yucca can grow to the size of trees like this Yucca elephantipes, aptly named after its large size. Photo courtesy of smgrowers.
After transferring pollen from one shrub to another, a female yucca moth cuts into the ovary of the flower and oviposits lays an egg. She may cut open and oviposit eggs multiple times into the flower before she moves on, which can build up scar tissue stressing the plant.
Once the moth larvae hatch, they feed on the developing seeds fertilized by their mother. The larvae consume only a small proportion of the seeds, leaving many seeds intact so the plant can still reproduce.
Reciprocal specialization of the yucca moths and the Yucca has led to this relationship becoming obligate in nature; neither species can successfully reproduce without the other.
No other insects pollinate Yucca. No other flowers host yucca moths. Close up of female yucca moths taking pollen from the stamens of the Yucca and making pollen balls to fertilize the ovary of another plant. Photo courtesy of M. This dependence on one another has led to a highly stable relationship. If the moths were to attempt to take advantage and lay too many eggs in each flower, seed production would decrease, reducing the amount of new Yucca plants.
This in turn, would reduce the number of hosts for the moths. If the Yucca dropped their infected flowers and spent more energy on the non-infected flowers, there would be less moths and therefore less pollinators. The Yucca have a great strategy for keeping the moths in check. Losing these seeds to moth larvae is a major cost for the plant.