Plant-Environment Interactions

Part of the series Signaling and Communication in Plants pp 203-222


Deceptive Behavior in Plants. I. Pollination by Sexual Deception in Orchids: A Host–Parasite Perspective

  • Nicolas J. VereeckenAffiliated withBehavioural and Evolutionary Ecology, Free University of Brussels (U.L.B)Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zürich Email author 

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Sexually deceptive orchids attract male insects as pollinators by mimicking the reproductive signals emitted by the targeted females. Since this mimicry system involves the imitation of female mating signals of certain insects, and since mating signals, especially sex pheromones, generally act on a species-specific basis, theory holds that each sexually deceptive orchid is usually pollinated by only one or a few male insect species. While these orchids rely exclusively on their specialized pollinators for their own reproduction, the male insects derive no benefit from this interaction. In this chapter, I will argue that incorporating questions relevant to the field of animal-centered host–parasite interactions into investigations on the evolutionary ecology of orchid pollination by deception will provide important insights at both the proximate (or mechanistic) and at the ultimate (or evolutionary) levels.