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Understanding plant-pollinator relationships and reconstructing past vegetation: proxy applications of pollen

Abstract

Pollen is the yellow powder produced by plants containing the male gametophytes. The outer wall of the pollen grain, the exine, composed largely of sporopollenin, is highly resistant to degradation and is in fact what remains as a proxy. The morphological complexities of the exine, characteristic of a given taxon, form the main basis for the identification of the source plant. This talk will highlight two important ecological applications of pollen as a proxy: the first is in the reconstruction of past vegetation and hence, climate (Palynology and Paleoecology) and the second is the study of the pollen contents of honey (Melissopalynology) and its application in understanding, for example, the foraging preferences of bees. The talk will provide a basic introduction to the chief tool, namely Palynology and pollen morphology and some illustrative examples of recent research by the French Institute of Pondicherry in these two aspects.