Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 9, pp 1072-1080

First online:

The Key Role of 4-methyl-5-vinylthiazole in the Attraction of Scarab Beetle Pollinators: a Unique Olfactory Floral Signal Shared by Annonaceae and Araceae

  • Artur Campos Dália MaiaAffiliated withDepartamento de Química Fundamental, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco Email author 
  • , Stefan DötterlAffiliated withDepartment of Plant Systematics, University of Bayreuth
  • , Roman KaiserAffiliated withGivaudan Fragrance Research
  • , Ilse Silberbauer-GottsbergerAffiliated withBotanical Garden and Herbarium, University of Ulm
  • , Holger TeichertAffiliated withInstitute of Systematic Botany and Ecology, University of Ulm
  • , Marc GibernauAffiliated withCNRS—Ecofog (UMR 8172)
  • , Daniela Maria do Amaral Ferraz NavarroAffiliated withDepartamento de Química Fundamental, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
  • , Clemens SchlindweinAffiliated withDepartamento de Botânica, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
  • , Gerhard GottsbergerAffiliated withBotanical Garden and Herbarium, University of Ulm

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Cyclocephaline scarabs are specialised scent-driven pollinators, implicated with the reproductive success of several Neotropical plant taxa. Night-blooming flowers pollinated by these beetles are thermogenic and release intense fragrances synchronized to pollinator activity. However, data on floral scent composition within such mutualistic interactions are scarce, and the identity of behaviorally active compounds involved is largely unknown. We performed GC-MS analyses of floral scents of four species of Annona (magnoliids, Annonaceae) and Caladium bicolor (monocots, Araceae), and demonstrated the chemical basis for the attraction of their effective pollinators. 4-Methyl-5-vinylthiazole, a nitrogen and sulphur-containing heterocyclic compound previously unreported in flowers, was found as a prominent constituent in all studied species. Field biotests confirmed that it is highly attractive to both male and female beetles of three species of the genus Cyclocephala, pollinators of the studied plant taxa. The origin of 4-methyl-5-vinylthiazole in plants might be associated with the metabolism of thiamine (vitamin B1), and we hypothesize that the presence of this compound in unrelated lineages of angiosperms is either linked to selective expression of a plesiomorphic biosynthetic pathway or to parallel evolution.


Floral scent Beetle pollination Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) Olfactory-mediated attraction