(Methylthio)phenol semiochemicals are exploited by deceptive orchids as sexual attractants for Campylothynnus thynnine wasps Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Until recently, (methylthio)phenols as natural products had only been reported from bacteria. Now, four representatives of this class of sulfurous aromatic compounds have been discovered as semiochemicals in the orchid Caladenia crebra, which secures pollination by sexual deception. In this case, field bioassays confirmed that a 10:1 blend of 2-(methylthio)benzene-1,4-diol (1) and 4-hydroxy-3-(methylthio)benzaldehyde (2) sexually attracts the male thynnine wasp Campylothynnus flavopictus (Tiphiidae:Thynnineae), the exclusive pollinator of C. crebra. Here we show with field bioassays that another undescribed species of Campylothynnus (sp. A) is strongly sexually attracted to a 1:1 blend of compounds 1 and 2, which elicits very high attempted copulation rates (88%). We also confirm that this Campylothynnus species is a pollinator of Caladenia attingens subsp. attingens. Chemical analysis of the flowers of this orchid revealed two (methylthio)phenols, compound 2 and 2-(methylthio)phenol (3), as candidate semiochemicals involved in pollinator attraction. Thus, (methylthio)phenols are likely to be more widely used than presently known. The confirmation of this Campylothynnus as a pollinator of C. attingens subsp. attingens at our study sites was unexpected, since elsewhere this orchid is pollinated by a different thynnine wasp (Thynnoides sp). In general, sexually deceptive Caladenia only use a single species of pollinator, and as such, this unusual case may offer a tractable study system for understanding the chemical basis of pollinator switching in sexually deceptive orchids.

publication date

  • 2018