Journal Article

Cockroaches as Pollinators of <i>Clusia</i> aff. <i>sellowiana</i> (Clusiaceae) on Inselbergs in French Guiana

Blanka Vlasáková, Blanka Kalinová, Mats H. G. Gustafsson and Holger Teichert

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 102, issue 3, pages 295-304
Published in print September 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online June 2008 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Cockroaches as Pollinators of Clusia aff. sellowiana (Clusiaceae) on Inselbergs in French Guiana

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

A report is made on a new species of Clusia related to C. sellowiana that dominates the vegetation of the Nouragues inselberg in French Guiana. The focus is on the pollination biology and on the remarkable relationship of this plant species to Amazonina platystylata, its cockroach pollinator. This appears to be only the second record of pollination by cockroaches.


Pollination ecology was investigated by combining morphological studies, field observations and additional experiments. Floral scent was analysed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. The role of acetoin, the major component of the scent of this species of Clusia, in attracting pollinators was examined in field attraction experiments. The ability of cockroaches to perceive acetoin was investigated by electroantennography (EAG).

Key Results

The Clusia species studied produces seeds only sexually. Its nocturnal flowers are visited by crickets, ants, moths and cockroaches. A species of cockroach, Amazonina platystylata, is the principal pollinator. The reward for the visit is a liquid secretion produced by tissues at the floral apex and at the base of the ovary. Although the cockroaches have no structures specialized for pollen collection, their body surface is rough enough to retain pollen grains. The cockroaches show significant EAG reactions to floral volatiles and acetoin, suggesting that the floral scent is a factor involved in attracting the cockroaches to the flowers.


The results suggest that the plant–cockroach interaction may be quite specialized and the plant has probably evolved a specific strategy to attract and reward its cockroach pollinators. Acetoin is a substance involved in the chemical communication of several other cockroach species and it seems plausible that the plant exploits the sensitivity of cockroaches to this compound to attract them to the flowers as part of the pollination syndrome of this species.

Keywords: Clusia; cockroaches; acetoin; pollination; floral scent; floral reward; plant–animal interaction; inselberg; French Guiana; Amazonina platystylata

Journal Article.  6816 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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