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Orchid wears the scent of death
Date:3/14/2011

hat not every species of carrion fly at the dassie carcass had orchid pollen on it. The ones that were carrying the pollen were flesh-flies, mostly females."

Further experiments on the flowers showed that the orchids were mimicking the smell of small amounts of carrion. Studies on flies have shown that flesh-flies are better at finding these food sources than other flies.

Van der Niet said: "The flowers of the orchids are incredibly specialised. Not only do they have to entice flies in, but they have to get flies of the right size into the right position to pick up the pollen. We've found that scent plays a hugely important role in pulling in the flies, and even inside the flower different scents attract the flies into the right location to pick up the pollen. The combination of smell and sight is irresistible to some flies. The level of carrion mimicry is amazing; we even saw a female fly leave larvae in a flower because it thought it was carrion.

"What we've done is show for the first time that carrion mimicking flowers are highly sophisticated tools for orchids. It's not just any fly that the orchid is after. For Satyrium pumilum we can now see exactly how successful mimicry is for pollination. It also disproves a clich, you don't always catch more flies with honey."

The study 'Carrion mimicry in a South African orchid: flowers attract a narrow subset of the fly assemblage on animal carcasses' can be freely accessed at the Annals of Botany DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcr048 from March 14.


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Contact: Alun Salt
Annalsbotany@le.ac.uk
44-011-625-23396
Oxford University Press
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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