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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2010

A Deceptive Pollination System Targeting Drosophilids through Olfactory Mimicry of Yeast

Stökl, Johannes; Strutz, Antonia; Dafni, Amots; Svatos, Ales; Doubsky, Jan; Knaden, Markus; Sachse, Silke; Stensmyr, Marcus C.; Hansson, Bill


In deceptive pollination, insects are bamboozled into performing nonrewarded pollination. A prerequisite for the evolutionary stability in such systems is that the plants manage to generate a perfect sensory impression of a desirable object in the insect nervous system [1]. The study of these plants can provide important insights into sensory preference of their visiting insects. Here, we present the first description of a deceptive pollination system that specifically targets drosophilid flies. We show that the examined plant (Arum palaestinum) accomplishes its deception through olfactory mimicry of fermentation, a strategy that represents a novel pollination syndrome. The lily odor is composed of volatiles characteristic of yeast, and produces in Drosophila melanogaster an antennal detection pattern similar to that elicited by a range of fermentation products. By functional imaging, we show that the lily odors target a specific subset of odorant receptors (ORs), which include the most conserved OR genes in the drosophilid olfactome. Furthermore, seven of eight visiting drosophilid species show a congruent olfactory response pattern to the lily, in spite of comprising species pairs separated by similar to 40 million years [2], showing that the lily targets a basal function of the fly nose, shared by species with similar ecological preference.

Published in

Current Biology
2010, Volume: 20, number: 20, pages: 1846-1852
Publisher: CELL PRESS

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      Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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