, Volume 91, Issue 7, pp 329–333 | Cite as

Floral CO2 emission may indicate food abundance to nectar-feeding moths

  • Pablo G. Guerenstein
  • Enrico A.Yepez
  • Joost van Haren
  • David G. Williams
  • John G. Hildebrand
Short Communication


As part of a study of the roles of the sensory subsystem devoted to CO2 in the nectar-feeding moth Manduca sexta, we investigated CO2 release and nectar secretion by flowers of Datura wrightii, a preferred hostplant of Manduca. Datura flowers open at dusk and wilt by the following noon. During the first hours after dusk, when Manduca feeds, the flowers produce considerable amounts of nectar and emit levels of CO2 that should be detectable by moths nearby. By midnight, however, both nectar secretion and CO2 release decrease significantly. Because nectar production requires high metabolic activity, high floral CO2 emission may indicate food abundance to the moths. We suggest that hovering moths could use the florally emitted CO2 to help them assess the nectar content before attempting to feed in order to improve their foraging efficiency.


Flower Opening Adult Moth Labial Palp Nectar Secretion Plant Patch 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful to Drs. W. Mechaber, R. Raguso, and C. Thom for valuable discussions and also to Drs. G. DeGrandi-Hoffman for lending us a refractometer, A. Fraser for sharing her unpublished results, C. Reisenman and R. Barrozo for statistical advice, and M. López for field assistance. This work was supported by NSF grant IBN-0213032 to J.G.H. CONACYT-México provided financial support for E.A.Y.

Supplementary material

Fig. S1 Datura wrigthii flower dissected longitudinally, showing the spurs (canals) in the corolla tube (see Materials and Methods)

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Fig. S2 A Manduca moth hovering in front of a Datura wrightii flower (left-down corner of the photo) at a time when we were recording CO2 and nectar production from other flowers of the same and different plants (see Discussion)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pablo G. Guerenstein
    • 1
  • Enrico A.Yepez
    • 2
  • Joost van Haren
    • 3
  • David G. Williams
    • 2
  • John G. Hildebrand
    • 1
  1. 1.ARL Division of NeurobiologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.School of Renewable Natural ResourcesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Biosphere 2 Center Columbia UniversityOracleUSA

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