Annals of Botany

Pollination by sexual deception in Pterostylis

A single species of male gnat (Mycetophilidae) visits and pollinates the rewardless flowers of P. sanguinea. The gnats often show probing copulatory behaviour on the labellum, leading to its triggering and the temporary entrapment of the gnat in the flower.
Pollination by sexual deception in Pterostylis
Pollination by sexual deception in Pterostylis

Pterostylis is an Australasian terrestrial orchid genus of more than 400 species, most of which use a motile, touch-sensitive labellum to trap dipteran pollinators. The mode of attraction, however, is uncertain. Phillips et al. find that a single species of male gnat (Mycetophilidae) visits and pollinates the rewardless flowers of P. sanguinea, and that the gnats often show probing copulatory behaviour on the labellum, leading to its triggering and the temporary entrapment of the gnat in the flower. Pollen deposition and removal occurs as the gnat escapes from the flower via the reproductive structures. The labellum is the sole source of the chemical attractant involved. It is predicted that sexual deception will be widespread in the genus, although the diversity of floral forms suggests that other mechanisms may also operate.

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