A perfume-collecting male oil bee? Evidences of a novel pollination system involving Anthurium acutifolium (Araceae) and Paratetrapedia chocoensis (Apidae, Tapinotaspidini)

Florian Etl, Anna Franschitz, Antonio J.C. Aguiar, Jürg Schönenberger, Stefan Dötterl

It has been known since Stefan Vogel's observations in 1969 that solitary female oil bees collect fatty floral oils from specialized oil-secreting plants with the aid of hairy patches on either their legs or abdomen, a reward used as food for their larvae and/or to line their brood cells. Similar adaptations are also known from male oil bees, although the purpose of their oil-collecting behavior has not yet been clarified. Here, we describe a novel pollination system involving male Paratetrapedia oil bees and the tropical herb Anthurium acutifolium. We present ultrastructural morphological details of bee and plant structures involved in this interaction and the composition of floral scents likely mediating pollinator attraction. Inflorescences of A. acutifolium were visited almost exclusively by male P. chocoensis oil bees. The bees mopped with a hairy patch of their abdominal sterna 3 across the inflorescence surface. During this activity on both staminate and pistillate stage inflorescences, bees’ abdomens and legs became loaded with pollen and contacted receptive stigmas. In contrast to what has been observed in other angiosperms visited for the collection of fatty floral oils, the inflorescences/flowers of A. acutifolium do not have structures specialized in oil secretion, i.e., elaiophores. These inflorescences, nonetheless, were strongly scented during the time interval they were visited by the bees. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) analyses of dynamic headspace floral samples revealed that inflorescences of both anthetic phases emitted scent bouquets consisting mainly of aliphatic esters, indole and uncommmon terpenoids (megastigmanes). Interestingly enough, our data suggest that the unusual floral scent of A. acutifolium is a perfume reward collected by male P. chocoensis oil bees. This pollination system thus bears a remarkable resemblence with the interactions between perfume-collecting male euglossine bees and their preferred flowers, discovered by Stefan Vogel half a century ago.

Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
External organisation(s)
Universidade de Brasília, Paris-Lodron Universität Salzburg
Flora: Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106042 Systematic botany, 106008 Botany, 106012 Evolutionary research
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics, Ecology, Plant Science
Portal url