More light has been shed on orchids that trick male bees into pollinating them by mimicking female insects.
The bees, lured by a pheromone-packed scent, attempt to mate with the flowers, but unwittingly carry away pollen after their visit.
Now, scientists working in the south of France have found how the flowers’ false advertising could help new species of orchids to arise.
The research is published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.
Lead scientist Dr Nicolas Vereecken, from the Free University of Brussels (Universite Libre de Bruxelles), said: “This pollination strategy is only known in orchids.
“For flowers to attract insects by imititating the female mating signals instead of advertising nectar or oil or pollen is very peculiar.”
The floral odour that the flowers produced, he said, was key.
ETA, research paper: Hybrid floral novelty drives pollinator shift in sexually deceptive orchids. Nicolas J Vereecken, Salvatore Cozzolino and Florian P Schiestl. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:103.