Magazine article Science News

Mailes Prefer Flower's Scent to Female Wasp's. (Better Than Real)

Magazine article Science News

Mailes Prefer Flower's Scent to Female Wasp's. (Better Than Real)

Article excerpt

In an extreme case of sex fakery, an orchid produces oddball chemicals that mimic a female wasp's allure so well that males prefer the floral scents to the real thing, scientists say. This plant's come-on is different from that of a related orchid that flirts with bees.

The Mediterranean orchid Ophrys speculum manufactures whiffs of the same scent that the female wasp Campsoscolia ciliata does. The flower misleads male wasps into mating attempts that benefit the plant by spreading pollen, explains Manfred Ayasse of the University of Ulm in Germany. He and his colleagues have now identified the attractants as chemicals not previously known in plants. The orchids produce them more abundantly than female wasps do, and males prefer the stronger bouquet, the researchers say in an upcoming Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.

This finding adds to the growing respect for the powers of deceptive orchids, according to Ayasse. Biologists had previously concluded that the plants make only mild attractants that males neglect once females appear. Last year, however, scientists found that an Australian orchid releases a scent that attracts inexperienced male bees as well as the actual female scent does (SN: 7/27/02, p. 56).

Several hundred orchids have been identified worldwide that use sexual deception to attract pollinators, says coauthor Florian P. Schiestl of the Geobotanical Institute ETH in Zurich.

With brushy red hairs, the O. speculum blooms look vaguely like the wasps that pollinate them. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.