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Rotting smell of dead-horse arum florets

These blooms chemically fool flies into pollinating them.


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.

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Figure 1: Olfactory mimicry by the dead-horse arum (Helicodiceros muscivorus).

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Correspondence to Bill S. Hansson.

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Stensmyr, M., Urru, I., Collu, I. et al. Rotting smell of dead-horse arum florets. Nature 420, 625–626 (2002).

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