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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences

Department of Plant Systematics: Angiosperm Working Group - Prof. Dr. Sigrid Liede-Schumann

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Johnson, S D; Ellis, A E ; Dötterl, S: Specialization for pollination by beetles and wasps: the role of lollipop hairs and fragrance in Satyrium microrrhynchum (Orchidaceae), American Journal of Botany, 94(1), 47-55 (2007)
Exposed nectar presentation is a key trait in flowers specialized for pollination by short-tongued insects. We investigated the pollination of Satyrium microrrhynchum, a rare South African orchid in which nectar is secreted as droplets on long floral hairs (‘‘lollipop hairs’’) at the mouth of a shallow labellum. Our observations indicate that this orchid is pollinated specifically by two insect species: a cetoniid beetle (Atrichelaphinus tigrina) and a pompilid wasp (Hemipepsis hilaris). Both insects have short mouthparts and remove nectar from the hairs with sweeping motions of their mouthparts. Pollinaria become attached to the upper surface of their heads while they feed on the nectar. Beetles damage the hairs while feeding, which may explain the positive relationship between hair damage and pollination success in plants of S. microrrhynchum from populations where beetles were common. The orchid has cryptic green-yellow flowers with spectral reflectance similar to that of its leaves. The fragrance from plants in three populations, analyzed using gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry, was dominated by various terpenoids; linalool was the most abundant. Plants in different populations emitted similar compounds, but eugenol and derivatives of this compound were found in only one of the three populations. In an electrophysiological study (gas chromatography coupled to electroantennography), using antennae of A. tigrina, clear signals were elicited by some of the floral scent compounds.
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