1. Ecology
  2. Plant Biology
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How scent and nectar influence floral antagonists and mutualists

  1. Danny Kessler
  2. Mario Kallenbach
  3. Celia Diezel
  4. Eva Rothe
  5. Mark Murdock
  6. Ian T Baldwin  Is a corresponding author
  1. Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Germany
  2. University of Pittsburgh, United States
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Cite this article as: eLife 2015;4:e07641 doi: 10.7554/eLife.07641

Abstract

Many plants attract and reward pollinators with floral scents and nectar, respectively, but these traits can also incur fitness costs as they also attract herbivores. This dilemma, common to most flowering plants, could be solved by not producing nectar and/or scent, thereby cheating pollinators. Both nectar and scent are highly variable in native populations of coyote tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata, with some producing no nectar at all, uncorrelated with the tobacco's main floral attractant, benzylacetone. By silencing benzylacetone biosynthesis and nectar production in all combinations by RNAi, we experimentally uncouple these floral rewards/attractrants and measure their costs/benefits in the plant's native habitat and experimental tents. Both scent and nectar increase outcrossing rates for three, separately-tested, pollinators and both traits increase oviposition by a hawkmoth herbivore, with nectar being more influential than scent. These results underscore that it makes little sense to study floral traits as if they only mediated pollination services.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Danny Kessler

    Department of Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  2. Mario Kallenbach

    Department of Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  3. Celia Diezel

    Department of Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  4. Eva Rothe

    Department of Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  5. Mark Murdock

    University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  6. Ian T Baldwin

    Department of Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany
    For correspondence
    baldwin@ice.mpg.de
    Competing interests
    Ian T Baldwin, Senior editor, eLife.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Marcel Dicke, Wageningen University, Netherlands

Publication history

  1. Received: March 21, 2015
  2. Accepted: June 30, 2015
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: July 1, 2015 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: August 11, 2015 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2015, Kessler et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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  1. Further reading

Further reading

    1. Ecology
    2. Plant Biology
    Kelsey JRP Byers, Florian P Schiestl
    Insight

    Floral scents and nectar attract both pollinators and other animals that may reduce the plant's fitness, and therefore put flowering plants in a challenging situation.

    1. Ecology
    Carla CM Arce et al.
    Research Article

    Insect herbivores use different cues to locate host plants. The importance of CO2 in this context is not well understood. We manipulated CO2 perception in western corn rootworm (WCR) larvae through RNAi and studied how CO2 perception impacts their interaction with their host plant. The expression of a carbon dioxide receptor, DvvGr2, is specifically required for dose-dependent larval responses to CO2. Silencing CO2 perception or scrubbing plant-associated CO2 has no effect on the ability of WCR larvae to locate host plants at short distances (<9 cm), but impairs host location at greater distances. WCR larvae preferentially orient and prefer plants that grow in well-fertilized soils compared to plants that grow in nutrient-poor soils, a behaviour that has direct consequences for larval growth and depends on the ability of the larvae to perceive root-emitted CO2. This study unravels how CO2 can mediate plant–herbivore interactions by serving as a distance-dependent host location cue.