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Abstract Detail

Pollination Biology

Oelschlägel, Birgit [1], Nuss, Matthias [2], v. Tschirnhaus, Michael [3], Pätzold, Claudia [1], Neinhuis, Christoph [1], Dötterl, Stefan [4], Wanke, Stefan [5].

Smelling like dead insects: Pollination biology of Aristolochia rotunda L. (Aristolochiaceae).

Trapping insects to ensure pollination is one of the most elaborate and specialized mechanisms in plant-insect-interactions. Phylogenetically, Aristolochia represent the first angiosperm lineage that developed trap flowers. The protogynous flowers possess a monosymmetric, extensively modified perianth, which is subdivided into three main parts: the limb, tube and utricle. These perianth parts are functionally optimized for pollinator trapping, retention and release, to ensure cross-pollination. Aristolochia is generally supposed to be pollinated by flies (Insecta: Diptera), and famous for a strong fetid odor. In contrast to the well-known, often giant flowering tropical species, the Mediterranean endemic A. rotunda shows an inconspicuous, greenish flower with a dark brown throat and the volatiles emitted are hardly detectable. In this study, we analyzed the mechanism of pollinator attraction using a multidisciplinary approach consisting of chemical, electrophysiological and behavioral assays as well as pollination experiments. We included both the plant partner as well as the pollinators in our study performed in the field as well as in the lab. Pollination experiments testing auto-, geitono-, and xenogamy reveal A. rotunda as obligate outcrosser. Insect visitors, carrying pollen and trapped in female-stage flowers of the protogyneous A. rotunda can be regarded as pollinators. More than 6000 female-staged flowers were dissected discovering more than 1100 arthropods trapped in the utricles. 306 Diptera were found to carry Aristolochia pollen and the majority of them (88%) belong to the Diptera family Chloropidae. We demonstrate that the flower scent is responsible for pollinator attraction and mediates the deceptive pollination syndrome. The flowers mimic the scent released by freshly dead Heteroptera to deceive their pollinators which are searching a food source. All our results culminate in a new pollination system where flowers mimic scent of dead insects to attract their pollinators.

Broader Impacts:

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1 - Technische Universität Dresden, Biology, Institut für Botanik, Zellescher Weg 20b, Dresden, 01062, Germany
2 - Senckenberg Naturhistorische Sammlungen Dresden & Museum für Tierkunde, Königsbrücker Landstraße 159, Dresden, 01109, Germany
3 - Universität Bielefeld, Biologie, Postfach 100 131, Bielefeld, 33501 , Germany
4 - Universität Salzburg, Organismische Biologie, Hellbrunnerstr. 34,, 5020, Austria
5 - Technische Universität Dresden, Department of Biology, Institut für Botanik, Zellescher Weg 20b, Dresden, 01062, Germany

olfactory deception
chemical mimicry

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Topics
Session: 45
Location: Melrose/Riverside Hilton
Date: Wednesday, July 31st, 2013
Time: 1:45 PM
Number: 45002
Abstract ID:541
Candidate for Awards:None

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