字幕表 動画を再生する 英語字幕をプリント The world’s largest orchid grows several meters tall. The tiniest is practically invisible. Some bloom high up in trees, while others live underground. All in, there are around 28,000 species of orchid on earth – about as many as all the bird, mammal and reptile species combined. They grow all over the world, bearing every imaginable colour, shape, and pattern. And there’s a cunning purpose behind these elaborate displays: many orchids trick insects, sometimes even into having sex with them. Like other flowers, most orchids need to attract insects to gather their pollen and carry it between plants. But unlike most flowers, which attract a range of pollinators with sweet nectar, these masters of deception deploy other tactics– like pretending to be an insect’s mate, letting off alluring scents, and mimicking the appearance of other species. One of their most intriguing methods is sexual deception. Through a combination of sexy shapes and pheromones, orchids convince insects to mate with them. Take the bee orchid, whose petals look almost exactly like the velvety body of a bee. This disguise is so convincing that male bees land on the orchid and try to have sex with it, picking up pollen as they go. Other orchids have evolved contrasting colours and ultraviolet spots– invisible to humans but irresistible to insects. Still others have tactile ‘love-handles’ that ensure insects are positioned precisely for pollination. When a male wasp lands on the hammer orchid, for example, his enthusiastic mating motion flips a hinge in the flower, forcing his body into the pollen. At the next flower he visits, that same hinge pushes his pollen-covered body onto the stigma, fertilizing it. Some orchids make such convincing mates that insects even ejaculate on them, wasting valuable sperm. But the most vital component of sexual deception is scent: orchids mimic the precise scent of a single insect species. This is possible because many insects and flowers produce simple organic compounds called hydrocarbons, which form a layer that protects their bodies from drying out. The precise blend of compounds in this layer is species-specific. Its scent can double as a way for insects to attract potential mates, known as a sex pheromone. Over the course of many thousands of years, random compound combinations have given some orchid species precisely the same signature scent as particular insect species. This matching scent allows them to attract male pollinators who fall over and over again for the flowers masquerading as females of their own species. Sexual deception isn’t the only trick orchids have up their sleeves. Their oldest scam is mimicking the shapes and colours of other nectar-producing flowers— but without the sweet nectar. Some orchids also masquerade as places where insects lay their eggs. One species not only has the colour and appearance of rotting meat; it emits a scent of decay as well– drawing in flies who deposit their eggs on the flower and unwittingly pollinate the plant. Other orchids look and smell just like the fungi on which certain insects lay their eggs. Where do all these bizarre adaptations come from? Random genetic mutations in orchids may result in a trait– like a scent or a shape– that, by chance, matches the needs of a single insect species. The huge diversity within the insect world also increases the likelihood that an orchid will find a unique audience. Able to make more seeds and offspring with the help of its dedicated pollinators, the orchid successfully reproduces in isolation, and becomes a new species. But because of their dependence on sometimes just one pollinator species, orchids are also vulnerable, and many quickly go extinct. Over time, though, more orchid species have formed than died out, and orchids are some of the most diverse flowering plants. They have such exuberant and otherworldly shapes that they occasionally deceive human senses, too: In their petals we see what appear to be tiny, dancing people, monkey’s faces, spiders, and even birds in flight.