Journal Article

Floral scents repel facultative flower visitors, but attract obligate ones

Robert R. Junker and Nico Blüthgen

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 105, issue 5, pages 777-782
Published in print May 2010 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online March 2010 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcq045
Floral scents repel facultative flower visitors, but attract obligate ones

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

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Background and Aims

Biological mutualisms rely on communication between partners, but also require protective measures against exploitation. Animal-pollinated flowers need to attract pollinators but also to avoid conflicts with antagonistic consumers. The view of flower visitors as mutualistic and antagonistic agents considers primarily the plants' interest. A classification emphasizing the consumer's point of view, however, may be more useful when considering animal's adaptations to flower visits which may include a tolerance against defensive floral scent compounds.

Methods

In a meta-analysis covering 18 studies on the responses of animals to floral scents, the animals were assigned to the categories of obligate and facultative flower visitors which considers their dependency on floral resources. Their responses on floral scents were compared.

Key Results

On average, obligate flower visitors, often corresponding to pollinators, were attracted to floral scent compounds. In contrast, facultative and mainly antagonistic visitors were strongly repelled by floral scents. The findings confirm that floral scents have a dual function both as attractive and defensive cues.

Conclusions

Whether an animal depends on floral resources determines its response to these signals, suggesting that obligate flower visitors evolved a tolerance against primarily defensive compounds. Therefore, floral scent bouquets in conjunction with nutritious rewards may solve the conflicting tasks of attracting mutualists while repelling antagonists.

Keywords: Attraction; benzenoids; floral scents; obligate and facultative flower visitors; plant defence; terpenes

Journal Article.  4471 words.  Illustrated.

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

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