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Bitter-tasting nectar and floral odors optimize outcrossing for plants
Date:8/28/2008

This release is available in German.

Animals "personally" bring their gametes together seeking out sexual partners, mating, fertilizing, and reproducing. Plants, however, are sessile organisms and require the help of a third party, the pollinator, which can be a bird, mouse or insect that transport pollen to receptive stigmas frequently over large distances. The colors and shapes of flowers as well as their volatile signals and nectar attract and reward the pollinators for their efforts. But not all flower visitors are pollinators, as many come only to steal nectar without transporting pollen or eat flower parts. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, have discovered that the chemistry of floral scents and nectar enforces good pollinator behavior and allows plants to optimize their ability to exchange gametes with each other. In a paper published in the latest issue of SCIENCE (August 29, 2008), the scientists report the results from field experiments with genetically modified wild tobacco plants that show that particular components of the floral fragrance attracted pollinators, while bitter-tasting and poisonous components of floral nectar enforced modest drinking behavior. Apart from sugars, the floral nectar of tobacco also contains nicotine, which is bitter and used to deter nectar thieves or herbivores. But given the right timing and dose, nicotine in the nectar and the attractant, benzyl acetone, released at night as part of the floral scent, ensure that the visits of pollinators such as hummingbirds and hawk moths optimize the tobacco plant's ability to exchange gametes and produce outcrossed seeds.

Prior to these field tests, the researchers showed that the amount of nicotine in the floral nectar of wild tobacco influenced pollination by the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta and two hummingbird species [1]. T
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Contact: Ian T. Baldwin
baldwin@ice.mpg.de
49-175-180-4226
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3 4

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