Spatial variation in scent emission within flowers

Yedra García, Magne Friberg, Amy L. Parachnowitsch

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskriftPeer review


Floral scent is considered an important long-distance signal that attracts pollinators, but also has been suggested to function at shorter distances such as within-flower nectar guides or as a defense against antagonists. Indeed, in some species floral scent production and emission show spatial patterns of variation within flowers, as certain compounds are exclusively emitted from specific floral tissues. In other species, the different volatile organic compounds that constitute the floral bouquet are emitted evenly from the entire flower. Here, we summarize the current evidence on floral scent variation within flowers by combining a literature review of published data on tissue-level floral scent variation (41 species) with floral scent dissections (17 species). For each species, we recorded the total number of volatile compounds separately and grouped in major chemical classes. To facilitate comparisons across diverse species, we compared volatiles emitted by 1) the whole flower, 2) the visual floral tissues (i.e. petals and colored structures), 3) non-visual floral tissues (i.e. green parts and reproductive structures), as well as 4) the compounds emitted by both visual and non-visual tissues. Results show that floral scent variation is frequent, but by no means ubiquitous, occurring in species from distantly related groups. We discuss the two main functional hypotheses promoting floral scent variation within flowers, i.e. as a pollinator attractant at short-distances or a defensive function against antagonists, together with non-functional hypotheses (e.g. pleiotropic effects, ecological costs). We point out further directions on this topic and suggest experimental approaches testing the attractiveness of compounds emitted by different floral parts alone and in combination with other floral signals. Our synthesis provides a foundation for future studies on the functional ecology of floral scent and reinforces the idea of high complexity in floral chemical signals.

TidskriftNordic Journal of Botany
StatusPublished - 2021

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Ekologi


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