Submitted by: Andrew Raduski
Program: Biological Sciences
Division: Life Sciences
Pollination biology of the wild relatives of cultivated tomato--an eminently important group--is largely unstudied in their native habitats. In the course of my thesis research, our expedition documented floral visitors of a wild species of Chilean tomato, Solanum chilense. Plants occur in deep canyons around the Andean foothills, at the margins of the hyper-arid Atacama desert. The principal pollinators are females of a solitary bee species, Centris buchholtzi. The bees have specialized structures, which closely resemble pantaloons, for carrying tomato pollen used in provisioning their brood. The structures, termed “scopae,” are here clearly displayed in the act of grooming. This is one of few successful photographs, among hundreds taken in burst mode, with manual focusing, highlighting the difficulties of working with fast-flying insects under natural conditions.
Location: 25km East of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, near the Bolivia-Argentina-Chile tri-border.