Plant Ecology and Evolution 152(1): 78-83, doi: 10.5091/plecevo.2019.1513
First observations of nectar-drinking lizards on the African mainland
expand article infoPetra Wester
‡ Institute of Sensory Ecology, Heinrich-Heine-University, Universitätsstr. 1, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany
Open Access

Background and aims – Pollination of flowers is performed mainly by insects, but also by vertebrates. In South Africa, beside birds, non-flying mammals contribute to pollination. During video surveillance of plants adapted to non-flying mammal pollination, surprisingly, lizards were observed at the flowers. The question was addressed whether the lizards consume nectar and whether they could be potential pollinators of these plants.

Methods – Flowering Massonia grandiflora in the Cederberg and Eucomis regia (both Asparagaceae) in Namaqualand of South Africa were monitored with camcorders and camera traps for potential flower visitors. The footage was analysed for the type of floral visitor, foraging behaviour, contact areas of the plants’ reproductive organs on the animals as well as potential pollen transfer between animals and flowers.

Key results – The Cape cliff lizard Hemicordylus capensis (Cordylidae) visited the flowers of M. grandiflora and the Namaqua day gecko Rhoptropella ocellata (Gekkonidae) visited E. regia flowers, both licking nectar. Thereby, the lizards touched the reproductive organs of the flowers and got dusted with pollen (at least H. capensis) on the same area of their head.

Conclusions – Visitation and pollination of flowers by lizards is a rarely observed phenomenon, especially in continental ecosystems. These are the first observations of lizards drinking floral nectar on the African mainland. As the areas on the animals’ head where pollen got deposited by the flowers’ anthers overlapped with the areas that touched the flowers’ stigma, it is very likely that the lizards contribute to pollination. However, the lizards’ role and importance as pollinators of the small-mammal-pollinated plants have to be proven by further observations and experiments.

Cordylidae, Eucomis regia, flower visits, Gekkonidae, lizards, nectar, non-flying mammal-pollinated plants, Massonia grandiflora, pollination, South Africa


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