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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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Teichert, H; Dötterl, S; Frame, D; Kirejtshuk, A; Gottsberger, G: A novel pollination mode, saprocantharophily, in Duguetia cadaverica (Annonaceae): a stinkhorn (Phallales) flower mimic, Flora, 207, 522-529 (2012)
Duguetia cadaverica (Annonaceae), a small understory tree of humid primary forest from the Guianas to Pará state, Brazil, unites several unusual blossom and floral characters such as flagelliflory and putridsmelling flowers, respectively. The few pollination studies conducted in the large genus Duguetia have shown that species are usually cantharophilous, pollinated by either small (mostly Nitidulidae) or large specialized dynastid (Scarabaeidae) beetles. Foul-smelling flowers are a novelty within the genus, and to better understand their significance, we undertook a study of the reproductive biology and flower scent chemistry of D. cadaverica. In a primary forest of French Guiana, we observed and measured morphology and phenology of trees and flowers; additionally, flower pollination chamber temperature was measured and insect visitors to flowers observed. Flower scent was collected in situ and later analyzed in the laboratory by GC–MS. Flowers are visited by small beetles of a single Pycnocnemus species (Nitidulidae), which are the only insects observed to enter the pollination chamber. Moreover, flowers evince a rhythm in sexual stage, scent emission and temperature, which finds correspondence in behavioral characters of the putative nitidulid pollinator, such as timing of entry and exit from the pollination chamber. Floral scent analysis revealed an unusual, previously undescribed combination of chemical odor classes. The earthy, rank flower scent contained 18 compounds, among them fatty acid derivatives, terpenoids and N- and S-bearing compounds. The most abundant volatiles were 1-octen-3-ol, 3-octanone, and (E)-2-octenol, which are characteristic earthy odors of fungi; additionally, there were sulfides and 4-methylpentanoic acid, which are molecules associated with carcass and cheese odors, respectively. Saprocantharophily, discovered in Duguetia cadaverica, is a novel pollination mode for Annonaceae. The beetle pollinator Pycnocnemus sp., which belongs to the Oxycnemus genus complex having fungal hosts of the order Phallales, appears to visit the flowers through deception. This extraordinary pollination system, whereby flowers mimic olfactory and visual cues of fungi, is rare and previously only known from three angiosperm families (Araceae, Aristolochiaceae and Orchidaceae) wherein the pollinators were flies.
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