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9 surprising pollinator species that aren't bees

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on May 20, 2016, 7:07 a.m.
Black and white ruffed lemurs are the largest of pollinators

Photo: David.C.Azor/Shutterstock

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Black-and-white ruffed lemur

Pollination isn't only the territory of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. In fact, a surprising number of animals play a role in the survival of flowering plants. We're taking a closer look at animals around the world that spread pollen in their search for sweet nectar treats.

The largest pollinator is the black-and-white ruffed lemur. Yep, lemurs are pollinators! This lemur is the primary pollinator of the traveler's palm, or traveler's tree, which has large flowers. When ruffed lemurs reach into the flower to snack on the nectar, they get pollen all over their snouts. This is distributed to the next flower they visit.

The fact that the flowers are surrounded by sturdy leaves that take some strength and dexterity to open, and that they produce enough nectar to satisfy an animal as big as a lemur, hints to researchers that this palm may have evolved specifically to be pollinated by larger mammals, rather than insects or birds.

Lemurs aren't the only mammals that pollinate plants. Check out an adorably tiny and furry pollinator in the next slide.