Plants mimic scent of pollinating beetles
The color and scent of flowers and their perception by pollinator insects are believed to have evolved in the course of mutual adaptation.
However, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Zurich has now proved that this is not the case with the arum family at least, which evolved its scent analogously to the pre-existing scents of scarab beetles and thus adapted to the beetles unilaterally. The mutual adaptation between plants and pollinators therefore does not always take place.
Soon, the gardens and fields will be blooming, fragrant and buzzing again. Bees, flies and beetles fly, as they have done for millions of years, from flower to flower in search of food or mates, drawn by flower shapes, colors and the scents of the individual plants. Often, pollinating insects favor certain scents and preferentially visit the flowers in question. Previously, researchers always assumed that floral scents and the fondness of pollinating insects for a specific scent evolved mutually via coevolution of plants and insects. However, the evolutionary biologist Florian Schiestl from the University of Zurich now proves that this was not the case with the arum family and their pollinators.
Scent of the scarab beetle mimicked
Schiestl and a colleague from Bayreuth studied the arum family and one of its pollinators, the scarab beetles. In the beetles, they discovered many scent molecules used for chemical communication that were also found in the plants. Based on a phylogenetic reconstruction, they realized that these scents were already present in the ancestors of today’s scarab beetles. Evidently, these prehistoric scarab beetles already used the same or similar scents back in the Jurassic period to find food or mates. Unlike today’s scarab beetles, these ancestors did not pollinate plants, the first members of the arum family to be pollinated by beetles not appearing until around 40 million years later. “In the course of evolution, the arum family mimicked the scents of scarab beetles to attract pollinating insects more efficiently,” says Schiestl.
Coevolution less common than assumed
In research, coevolution is regarded as a driving force behind the development of a mutual adaptation between two organisms. However, this is not true of the arum family, which developed its scent along the pre-existing communication of scarab beetle scents. “Coevolution between plants and pollinating insects might well be less common than we thought,” Schiestl concludes.
Florian P. Schiestl, and Stefan Dötterl. The Evolution of Floral Scent and Olfactory Preferences in Pollinators: Coevolution or Pre-Existing Bias? Evolution. International Journal of Organic Evolution. March 12, 2012. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.20
Prof. Dr. Florian Schiestl
Institute of Systematic Botany
University of Zurich
Tel. +41 44 634 84 09
Beat Müller | Universität Zürich
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
In meningococci, the RNA-binding protein ProQ plays a major role. Together with RNA molecules, it regulates processes that are important for pathogenic properties of the bacteria.
Meningococci are bacteria that can cause life-threatening meningitis and sepsis. These pathogens use a small protein with a large impact: The RNA-binding...
Research also suggests the early universe could have been spinning
An analysis of more than 200,000 spiral galaxies has revealed unexpected links between spin directions of galaxies, and the structure formed by these links...
Two prominent X-ray emission lines of highly charged iron have puzzled astrophysicists for decades: their measured and calculated brightness ratios always disagree. This hinders good determinations of plasma temperatures and densities. New, careful high-precision measurements, together with top-level calculations now exclude all hitherto proposed explanations for this discrepancy, and thus deepen the problem.
Hot astrophysical plasmas fill the intergalactic space, and brightly shine in stellar coronae, active galactic nuclei, and supernova remnants. They contain...
In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".
Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...
Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...