Bumblebee electric charge stimulates floral volatile emissions in Petunia integrifolia but not in Antirrhinum majus

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Montgomery, C., Vuts, J., Woodcock, C. M., Withall, D., Birkett, M. A., Pickett, J. A. and Robert, D. 2021. Bumblebee electric charge stimulates floral volatile emissions in Petunia integrifolia but not in Antirrhinum majus. Naturwissenschaften - The Science of Nature. 108 (44). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-021-01740-2

AuthorsMontgomery, C., Vuts, J., Woodcock, C. M., Withall, D., Birkett, M. A., Pickett, J. A. and Robert, D.
Abstract

The timing of volatile organic compound (VOC) emission by flowering plants often coincides with pollinator foraging activity. Volatile emission is often considered to be paced by environmental variables, such as light intensity, and/or by circadian rhythmicity. The question arises as to what extent pollinators themselves provide information about their presence, in keeping with their long co-evolution with flowering plants. Bumblebees are electrically charged and provide electrical stimulation when visiting plants, as measured via the depolarisation of electric potential in the stem of flowers. Here, we test the hypothesis that the electric charge of foraging bumblebees increases the floral volatile emissions of bee pollinated plants. We investigate the change in VOC emissions of two bee-pollinated plants (Petunia integrifolia and Antirrhinum majus) exposed to the electric charge typical of foraging bumblebees. P. integrifolia slightly increases its emissions of a behaviorally and physiologically active compound in response to visits by foraging bumblebees, presenting on average 121 pC of electric charge. We show that for P. integrifolia, strong electrical stimulation (600-700 pC) promotes increased volatile emissions, but this is not found when using weaker electrical charges more representative of flying pollinators (100 pC). Floral volatile emissions of A. majus were not affected by either strong (600-700 pC) or weak electric charges (100 pC). This study opens a new area of research whereby the electrical charge of flying insects may provide information to plants on the presence and phenology of their pollinators. As a form of electroreception, this sensory process would bear adaptive value, enabling plants to better ensure that their attractive chemical messages are released when a potential recipient is present.

KeywordsPlant; Pollination; Scent; Signalling; Triboelectricity
Year of Publication2021
JournalNaturwissenschaften - The Science of Nature
Journal citation108 (44)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-021-01740-2
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeBB/M011143/1
Publisher's version
Accepted author manuscript
Supplemental file
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online14 Sep 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted07 Jun 2021
PublisherSpringer
ISSN0028-1042

Permalink - https://repository.rothamsted.ac.uk/item/98483/bumblebee-electric-charge-stimulates-floral-volatile-emissions-in-petunia-integrifolia-but-not-in-antirrhinum-majus

16 total views
19 total downloads
8 views this month
9 downloads this month
Download files as zip