The Role of Yeasts in the Pollination Success of a Neotropical Orchid
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The Neotropical cloud forest inhabiting orchid Dracula felix has long been postulated to be a fungal mimic due to the form of its lower labellum and attraction to it by drosophilid flies that are often found feeding on fungal fruiting bodies in the surrounding area. The low number of co-occurring flowers in the area combined with the high number of fruiting fungi appears to have driven the evolution of the orchid genus Dracula to mimic these co-occurring fungi so that pollinators may be recruited. Over several years of working with these orchids we have noticed a particular lapping behavior by the pollinating flies on the labella and sepals of the Dracula flowers. In this study we have first surveyed floral yeasts and molds associated with Dracula flowers and then investigated the role of these fungi in attracting pollinators and offering a food reward to retain them for pollination purposes. In addition to the floral yeasts, leaf endophytes and root associated fungi were cultured and identified, and their frequencies were determined.