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      Floral synomone of a wild orchid, Bulbophyllum cheiri, lures Bactrocera fruit flies for pollination.

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          The major fruit fly attractant component in the floral fragrance of Bulbophyllum cheiri (fruit fly orchid) is methyl eugenol (ME). In the lowland rain forest of Malaysia, the solitary and nonresupinate flowers of the fruit fly orchid attract only males of the ME-sensitive fruit fly species (Bactrocera carambolae, B. papayae. and B. umbrosa. During the morning, the fruit fly orchid flower is visited by many fruit flies, which can sometimes cover the whole flower. The number of visitors dwindles in the afternoon. Headspace analysis of the flower shows a high ME peak in the morning, a small one between 12:00 and 14:00 hr, and no detectable ME peak after 14:00 hr. The process of pollination in the wild is initiated by attraction of fruit flies to floral ME. The flower, with the aid of its specialized hinged see-saw lip (labellum), temporarily traps (< 1 min) a fruit fly pollinator between its lip and column. Just prior to this, the fly is rewarded by the opportunity to feed on the floral attractant found on surfaces of petals, sepals, and lip. The pollinaria borne by two wild B. papayae males (caught on and near the fruit fly orchid flower) are identical in morphology and structure with those obtained from the flower. Many of the B. papayae males (17 of 22 analyzed) attracted to the fruit fly orchid already possessed both ME metabolites, trans-coniferyl alcohol and 2-allyl-4,5-dimethoxyphenol, in their rectal glands. indicating that they had previously consumed ME. In this orchid-fruit fly association, both organisms gain direct reproductive benefits: the orchid flower gets pollinated without having to offer nectar, while the fruit fly boosts its pheromone and defense system, as well as its sexual competitiveness by feeding on the ME produced by the flower.

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          Author and article information

          J Chem Ecol
          Journal of chemical ecology
          Springer Science and Business Media LLC
          Jun 2002
          : 28
          : 6
          [1 ] School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang. tan_kh@tm.net.my


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