Specialized pollination by fungus gnats in the introduced population of Aspidistra elatior.
The monocot genus Aspidistra comprises rhizomatous perennials that are distributed in tropical to warm temperate regions of Asia. Little is known about the pollinators of almost all the species, probably due to the inconspicuous nature of Aspidistra flowers. Nevertheless, the unusual floral morphology suggests biotic pollination, since pollen grains are hidden under each flower's stigma. Aspidistra elatior has been suspected to have a very peculiar pollination ecology. So far, pollination by mollusks, crustaceans, or collembolans has been suspected. However, a recent study showed that A. elatior is mainly pollinated by species of fungus gnats in Kuroshima Island, southern Japan, which is its natural habitat. Here, we investigated the pollination ecology of A. elatior in Shiga Prefecture, central Japan, which is the introduced population, to reveal whether fungus gnats are also the main pollinator in the introduced population. Our study confirmed fungus gnats pollination in the investigated pollination. Furthermore, the main pollinators (i.e., Cordyla sixi and Bradysia sp.) are the same in both Kuroshima and Shiga Prefecture. Therefore, A. elatior mainly depends on a narrow taxonomic group of fungus gnats for pollination. In contrast, we failed to document any terrestrial amphipods visiting the A. elatior flowers, in spite of a relatively high fruit set in natural conditions. This fact will refute the amphipod pollination hypothesis proposed by previous studies. We consider that A. elatior is pollinated by fungus gnats through fungal mimicry, due to its superficial similarity to mushroom fruiting bodies and strong, musky floral scent.