New scent created by breeding orchid species to trick male bees

April 22nd, 2010 - 5:08 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 22 (ANI): Just like some orchids attract males for pollination by mimicking the scent of a female insect, scientists have now created a new scent by breeding two orchid species to lure male bees.

This new odour had no effect on normal solitary bees from the area but was highly attractive to another species of wild bee that never visited any of the parent orchid species.

Nicolas J Vereecken from the Université Libre de Bruxelles worked with a team of researchers based in Switzerland (Zurich) and Italy (Naples) to carry out the study in the terrestrial orchid species Ophrys arachnitiformis and O. lupercalis growing in southern France.

The offspring of this pairing were sterile, but their floral odour was shown to be both novel and attractive to solitary bees unfamiliar with the parent plants’ scent.

“Our study provides a unique window into the stepwise process by which apparent reproductive barriers can be broken down and how new combinations of floral traits can be generated, leading to the evolution of novel, highly specific plant-pollinator interactions,” Vereecken said.

Vereecken added: ” The fact that some plants reproduce by advertising a false promise of sex to patrolling male bees is an extraordinary strategy. These orchids rely almost exclusively on their floral fragrance to attract pollinators on a highly specific basis, and this pollination mechanism is so far only known from the orchid family”.

The study has been published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. (ANI)

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