First observations on geckos visiting flowers in the Palearctic Eco-region
In islands, pollination networks are often less complex than in similar continental environments. In some cases, the pollinating role is played by generalist species, such as some birds. This ecological process is related to the absence of certain groups of species on islands, since they have not been able to colonise them due to their remoteness from the continent, and, therefore, this role can be carried out by other species present that take advantage of this empty trophic (food) niche.
To date, some species of "reptiles" (non-flying sauropods) had been found to act as opportunistic flower visitors. In addition, it is known that some species of perenquens and diurnal lizards visit flowers, rather frequently, in tropical and subtropical island environments. However, perennials had not been known to visit the Palearctic (Europe, Asia north of the Himalayas, northern Africa and the northern and central areas of the Arabian Peninsula), where they are widely considered to be insectivores.
During some nocturnal entomological surveys carried out on the island of La Palma in the spring of 2016, we observed some specimens of the endemic perennial Tarentola delalandii on bitter tabaiba plants (Euphorbia lamarckii). Although at first we thought about the possibility that they were hunting the insects visiting flowers during the night - frequently moths - we could confirm that they were releasing the nectar from the flowers. To quantify this interaction, we performed oral smears on about 45 perenquens and studied whether they had pollen grains attached to their mouths and nearby parts. The results showed that they visited the flowers of E. lamarckii to sip nectar, and also revealed that they visited the flowers of 12 other native plant species (or pollen types). Their actual effectiveness, as effective pollinators, should be studied in the near future in order to understand the true ecological role of these endemic perenquens.
This interesting finding offers a novel ecological lesson about the "cryptic" biology that takes place at night and underlines the importance of more night-time observations, as they can reveal new ecological roles.
To learn more about this: “First record of geckos visiting flowers in the Palaearctic Ecozone” (David Hernández-Teixidor, Natalia Díaz-Luis, Félix M Medina, Manuel Nogales, 2019, Current Zoology, zoz051).