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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Three Chemically Distinct Floral Ecotypes in Drakaea livida, an Orchid Pollinated by Sexual Deception of Thynnine Wasps

Weinstein, Alyssa M.; Bohman, Bjorn; Flematti, Gavin R.; Phillips, Ryan D.


Sexually deceptive orchids are unusual among plants in that closely related species typically attract different pollinator species using contrasting blends of floral volatiles. Therefore, intraspecific variation in pollinator attraction may also be underpinned by differences in floral volatiles. Here, we tested for the presence of floral ecotypes in the sexually deceptive orchid Drakaea livida and investigated if the geographic range of floral ecotypes corresponded to variation in pollinator availability. Pollinator choice trials revealed the presence of three floral ecotypes within D. livida that each attracts a different species of thynnine wasp as a pollinator. Surveys of pollinator distribution revealed that the distribution of one of the ecotypes was strongly correlated with that of its pollinator, while another pollinator species was present throughout the range of all three ecotypes, demonstrating that pollinator availability does not always correlate with ecotype distribution. Floral ecotypes differed in chemical volatile composition, with a high degree of separation evident in principal coordinate analysis. Some compounds that differed between ecotypes, including pyrazines and (methylthio)phenols, are known to be electrophysiologically active in thynnine wasp antennae. Based on differences in pollinator response and floral volatile profile, the ecotypes represent distinct entities and should be treated as such in conservation management.


ecotypes; sexual deception; pollinator distribution; floral volatiles; (methylthio)phenols

Published in

2022, volume: 11, number: 3, article number: 260
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Weinstein, Alyssa M.
Australian National University
Australian National University
University of Western Australia
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology
Flematti, Gavin R.
University of Western Australia
Phillips, Ryan D.
La Trobe University

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