Cycads are slow-growing plants that bear their reproductive organs in cones, with male plants bearing cones that contain pollen, and female cycads producing cones that contain ovules that later become seeds (5). Thunberg’s cycad produces cones between April and June, and the pollen from the male cone is transferred to a female cone by wind or insects. The exact method by which Thunberg’s cycad is pollinated has not yet been determined, although pollinating beetles have been found on the cones of wild plants (4). The fertilized ovules subsequently develop into bright red seeds that are shed between October and December (2) (4) (6). Baboons, hornbills and small rodents all feed on the fleshy-covering of the seeds, and through this process, the seeds are dispersed from the parent plant (4). As with other cycads, Thunberg’s cycad contains toxic compounds within its tissues, particularly the seeds, and therefore the animals that feed on the seeds must possess a mechanism to counteract the effect of the toxins (4).
While it is not clear whether beetles are responsible for pollination of Thunberg’s cycads, the plant definitely has another, important relationship with a beetle species. The cycad weevil Antliarrhinus zamiae uses its snout to burrow into the ovules of Thunberg’s cycad, where it lays its eggs and feeds on the seed kernel (7).