Eau de Rotting Fruit

Science Signaling  02 Nov 2010:
Vol. 3, Issue 146, pp. ec334
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.3146ec334

Plants that use deceptive pollination lure insects into pollinating them without reward (see Benton). Stökl et al. found that the Solomon’s lily (Arum palaestinum) trapped eight drosophilid species, including Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans, which feed on yeast and breed in fruit when available. Gas chromatography of volatile compounds from the Solomon’s lily, linked to electroantennographic detection (GC-EAD), revealed that six compounds induced repeated, reproducible antennal responses in D. melanogaster and D. simulans. In two-choice assays, these six compounds, mixed in proportions similar to those emitted by the Solomon’s lily, were as attractive as two attractive odor stimuli, banana and Vector960 (a commercially available Drosophila bait). These compounds are produced by fermentative yeasts and are characteristic of overripe or rotting fruit, but they are relatively uncommon in floral bouquets. The compounds activated the same set of odorant receptors as Vector960; some of these odorant receptors, such as Or42b, Or59b, and Or92a, are involved in locating alcoholic fermentation substrates and are well conserved across drosophilid species (although other targeted odorant receptors were evolutionarily divergent). Thus, the deceptive pollination system used by the Solomon’s lily targets odorant receptors that enable drosophilids to detect the odors of yeast.

J. Stökl, A. Strutz, A. Dafni, A. Svatos, J. Doubsky, M. Knaden, S. Sachse, B. S. Hansson, M. C. Stensmyr, A deceptive pollination system targeting drosophilids through olfactory mimicry of yeast. Curr. Biol. 20, 1846–1852 (2010). [PubMed]

R. Benton, Chemosensory ecology: Deceiving Drosophila. Curr. Biol. 20, R891–R893 (2010). [PubMed]