Pollinator Preferences for Floral Volatiles Emitted by Dimorphic Anthers of a Buzz-Pollinated Herb

Research paper by L. Solís-Montero, S. Cáceres-García, D. Alavez-Rosas, J. F. García-Crisóstomo, M. Vega-Polanco, J. Grajales-Conesa, L. Cruz-López

Indexed on: 07 Sep '18Published on: 07 Sep '18Published in: Journal of Chemical Ecology


Floral scents attract pollinators to plant rewards; in nectarless flowers, pollen grains are the only reward. Thus, pollen not only fertilizes ovules, but also feeds pollinators. This dilemma is resolved by specialization of anthers (i.e., heteranthery): feeding anthers that feed pollinators and pollinating anthers for fertilization. We hypothesized that the chemical composition of floral volatiles differs between the two types of anther and influences pollination preference for feeding anthers. We used Solanum rostratum as a study model because its heterantherous flowers produce a floral scent that suggests a close association with their pollinators. The main aim of this study was to determine the chemical composition of the two types of anther and to investigate how they influence foraging behaviour of pollinators. To characterize this composition, we used solid phase microextraction and hexane extraction followed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. We registered 12 volatile compounds in S. rostratum floral extracts, mainly aromatic and sesquiterpene compounds. The proportion of these compounds differed between feeding and pollinating anthers. Some of these compounds were probably emitted by osmophores located in both anther types. Also, we used electroantennography to investigate Melipona solani antennal response to floral volatiles. The M. solani antennae are receptive to the highest floral extract dose tested. Finally, we conducted two behavioural bioassays to test bee attraction for each type of floral extract: a) multiple-choice in a feeding arena using M. solani and b) Y-olfactometer bioassay using Bombus impatiens. Both bee species preferred feeding anthers in bioassays. In conclusion, heteranthery involves chemical differentiation (i.e., proportion of volatiles compounds) in anther specialization that influences bee preference for feeding anthers over pollinating anthers.