20 C
Mossel Bay
23rd Oct 2019
Nature & Nurture

A SOUTH AFRICAN WORLD RECORD HOLDER

Yes, South Africa has a world record for a small beetle for the longest snout to body ratio in the world. A primitive weevil, family Brentidae. The common name, delightful and so descriptive: the Hose-nosed (Cycad) Weevil, Anthliarhis zamiae. Only the female has that incredible snout (rostrum) length, the male being a much more conventional length although still long. This beetle is dependent on cycads and has spread with cycads collected for gardens. It is both an essential pollinator of cycads, carrying the pollen from male cones to female cones (cycads do not produce flowers but produce cones and have female and male plants), but also a pest, destroying seeds of cycads. The female uses that long snout, with mandibles (jaws) at the tip, to bore through the flesh and casing of seeds to lay eggs into the seeds. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the seeds, leaving empty seeds pods. Believe it or not, the female has coiled up in her abdomen an ovipositor of equal length to that snout which is used to lay eggs into the seed pods. Despite that snout, the female flies very well, as does the male. Both male and female beetles have been recorded at the Garden Route Botanical Gardens, where there are several cycads growing. The female was seen near where cycad seeds brought in were being cleaned in preparation for planting and may have come in with the seeds. Cycads are ancient plants; the weevil is primitive so this pollinating and seed pest relationship, love/hate has been going on for many millions of years.

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