Flowers of Deceptive Aristolochia microstoma Are Pollinated by Phorid Flies and Emit Volatiles Known From Invertebrate Carrion

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Thomas Rupp - , University of Salzburg (Author)
  • Birgit Oelschlagel - , TUD Dresden University of Technology (Author)
  • Katharina Rabitsch - , University of Graz (Author)
  • Hafez Mahfoud - , TUD Dresden University of Technology (Author)
  • Torsten Wenke - , TUD Dresden University of Technology (Author)
  • R. Henry L. Disney - , University of Cambridge (Author)
  • Christoph Neinhuis - , TUD Dresden University of Technology (Author)
  • Stefan Wanke - , TUD Dresden University of Technology (Author)
  • Stefan Dotterl - , University of Salzburg (Author)


Deceptive flowers decoy pollinators by advertising a reward, which finally is not provided. Numerous deceptive plants are pollinated by Diptera, but the attractive cues and deceptive strategies are only identified in a few cases. A typical fly-deceptive plant genus is Aristolochia, which evolved sophisticated trap flowers to temporarily capture pollinators. Though rarely demonstrated by experimental approaches, Aristolochia species are believed to chemically mimic brood sites, food sources for adult flies, or utilize sexual deception. Indeed, for most species, studies on scent composition and attractive signals are lacking. In this study, we focused on Aristolochia microstoma, a peculiar Greek endemic with flowers that are presented at ground level in the leaf litter or between rocks and are characterized by a unique morphology. We analyzed flower visitor and pollinator spectra and identified the floral scent composition using dynamic headspace and gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Female and male phorid flies (Phoridae) are the exclusive pollinators, although the flowers are also frequently visited by Sciaridae, as well as typical ground-dwelling arthropods, such as Collembola and arachnids. The carrion-like floral scent mainly consists of the oligosulphide dimethyldisulfide and the nitrogen-bearing compound 2,5-dimethylpyrazine. These compounds together are known to be released from decomposing insects, and thus, we conclude that pollinators are likely deceived by chemical imitation of invertebrate carrion, a deceptive strategy not described from another plant species so far.


Original languageEnglish
Article number658441
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in ecology and evolution
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 May 2021
Externally publishedYes

External IDs

Scopus 85107261826



  • Aristolochiaceae, deceptive pollination, dimethyldisulfide, 2, 5-dimethylpyrazine, floral scent, Phoridae, sapromyiophily, Megaselia, TRAIL PHEROMONE, FLORAL BIOLOGY, FIRE ANT, DIPTERA, IDENTIFICATION, MIMICRY, FLY, METABOLITES, STAPELIADS, MEGASELIA

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