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Rotting smell of dead-horse arum florets

Nature volume 420, pages 625626 (12 December 2002) | Download Citation



Deceit by resource mimicry has evolved as a pollination strategy in several plant species1,2,3 and is particularly elaborate in a plant known as dead-horse arum (Helicodiceros muscivorus; Araceae: Aroideae), which may fool flies into pollinating it by emitting a smell like a dead animal — an important oviposition resource for these insects. Here we confirm that the composition of volatiles from these flowers and from a rotting carcass is strikingly similar and show that the pollinators respond in the same way to chemicals from both sources. This remarkably complex mimicry must have evolved to exploit insects as unrewarded pollinators.

These blooms chemically fool flies into pollinating them.

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Author information


  1. *Department of Crop Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, PO Box 44, 23053 Alnarp, Sweden

    • Marcus C. Stensmyr
    • , Malin Celander
    •  & Bill S. Hansson
  2. †Department of Experimental Biology, University of Cagliari, 4500 Monserrato, Italy

    • Isabella Urru
    • , Ignazio Collu
    •  & Anna-Maria Angioy


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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Bill S. Hansson.

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