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Private channels in plant–pollinator mutualisms

Soler, Catherine, Proffit, Magali, Chen, Chun, Hossaert-McKey, Martine
Plant signaling & behavior 2010 v.5 no.7 pp. 893-895
Ficus, plant reproduction, sexual reproduction, insect pollination, pollinating insects, Agaonidae, mutualism, signal transduction, volatile compounds, flowers, biosynthesis, insect attractants
Volatile compounds often mediate plant–pollinator interactions, and may promote specialization in plant–pollinator relationships, notably through private channels of unusual compounds. Nevertheless, the existence of private channels, i.e. the potential for exclusive communication via unique signals and receptors, is still debated in the literature. Interactions between figs and their pollinating wasps offer opportunities for exploring this concept. Several experiments have demonstrated that chemical mediation is crucial in ensuring the encounter between figs and their species-specific pollinators. Indeed, chemical messages emitted by figs are notably species- and developmental stage-specific, making them reliable cues for the pollinator. In most cases, the species-specificity of wasp attraction is unlikely to result from the presence of a single specific compound. Nevertheless, a recent paper on the role of scents in the interaction between Ficus semicordata and its pollinating wasp Ceratosolen gravelyi showed that a single compound, 4-methylanisole, is the main signal compound in the floral scent, and is sufficient by itself to attract the obligate pollinator. Mainly focusing on these results, we propose here that a floral scent can act as a private channel, attracting only the highly specific pollinator.