An overwhelming majority of plants depend upon birds and insects for seed dispersal. Plants attract pollinators by releasing aromatic compounds into the air, or by producing sweet nectar that birds and insects feed upon. Species of the Pisonia plant are no different. They entice small birds to build nests on its branches, and when the birds brush against these seed-laden branches, the Pisonia’s sticky seeds get stuck to the birds’ feathers. After some time the seeds fall off, ideally when the birds had travelled to another island. But somewhere along the Pisonia’s evolutionary history, something went horribly wrong. Instead of using the birds as vectors of pollination, the Pisonia ends up killing a large number of birds by ladening them with so much seeds that the poor birds are unable to fly away. They fall to the ground and starve to death, or get eaten by predators.
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Black noddies nest on Pisonia trees in Heron Island, Queensland. Photo: Christopheb / Dreamstime.com