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Geographic variation of floral scent in a highly specialized pollination mutualism

Soler, Catherine, Hossaert-McKey, Martine, Buatois, Bruno, Bessière, Jean-Marie, Schatz, Bertrand, Proffit, Magali
Phytochemistry 2011 v.72 no.1 pp. 74-81
Ficus, absorption, desorption, figs, flowers, genes, geographical distribution, geographical variation, mutualism, odors, pollinating insects, pollination, volatile organic compounds, East Asia
Floral scents are important signals for communication between plants and pollinators. Several studies have focused on interspecific variation of these signals, but little is known about intraspecific variation in flower scent, particularly for species with wide geographic distributions. In the highly specific mutualism between Ficus species and their pollinating wasps, chemical mediation is crucial for partner encounter. Several studies show that scents, i.e. blends of volatiles, are species-specific, but no studies address interpopulation variation of scents in fig pollination mutualisms, which often have broad geographic distributions. In this study, using absorption/desorption headspace techniques, we analyzed variation in floral scent composition among three populations of each of two widely distributed Asian Ficus species. We identified more than 100 different volatile organic compounds, predominantly terpenes. In both species, significant differences were found between scent bouquets of East Asian and Indian populations. These differences are discussed in relation to geographical barriers that could disrupt gene exchange between these two areas, thereby isolating Indian populations from those of Eastern Asia.