, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 75–88 | Cite as

Floral scents: their roles in nursery pollination mutualisms

  • Martine Hossaert-McKey
  • Catherine Soler
  • Bertrand Schatz
  • Magali Proffit
Review Paper


Mutualisms are interspecies interactions in which each participant gains net benefits from interacting with its partner. In nursery pollination mutualisms, pollinators reproduce within the inflorescence they pollinate. In these systems, each partner depends directly on the other for its reproduction. Therefore, the signal responsible for partner encounter is crucial in these horizontally transmitted mutualisms, in which the association between specific partners must be renewed at each generation. As in many other interspecies interactions, chemical signals are suspected to be important in the functioning of these mutualisms. We synthesized and compared the published data available on the role of floral scents in the functioning of the 16 known independently evolved nursery pollination mutualisms. So far, attraction of pollinators to their specific hosts has been investigated in only seven of these systems, and the majority of the studies have been conducted on one of them, fig/fig wasp interactions. While such unevenness of the information limits the potential for meta-analysis, some patterns emerge from this review concerning the role of flower volatiles in maintaining the specificity of pollinator attraction, in signaling the appropriate phenological stage for pollinator visit, in attracting the pollinator toward the rewardless sex in dioecious plant species and in aiding the location and exploitation of resources by parasites and predators associated with these mutualisms. Finally, we highlight new perspectives on the evolution of signals in these diversified systems depending on the age and the degree of specificity of the interaction, and on the effect of phylogenetic inertia on the evolutionary dynamics of plant signals.


Chemical mediation Specific pollination Pollination by deceit Community ecology Pollinator behavior Evolutionary ecology 



MH would like to express her gratitude to JM Delwart for his generosity and the excellent meeting he organized in November 2008. We thank J. Pasteels for providing us the opportunity to write this review paper. We also thank Doyle McKey for his constructive discussions and helpful comments on the manuscript, Glenn Svensson for his interesting discussion, and an anonymous reviewer. This work was partly supported by the ANR grant Nice Figs (ANR BDIV-006-001).


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martine Hossaert-McKey
    • 1
  • Catherine Soler
    • 1
  • Bertrand Schatz
    • 1
  • Magali Proffit
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre d’Écologie Fonctionnelle et Évolutive (CEFE), UMR 5175 CNRSMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.Chemical Ecology GroupSwedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)AlnarpSweden

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