Flowering plants attract pollinators via various stimuli such as odor, color, and shape. Factors determining the foraging behavior of pollinators remain a major theme in ecological and evolutionary research, although the floral traits and cognitive ability of pollinators have been investigated for centuries. Here we show that the autofluorescence emitted from pollen and anthers under UV irradiation may act as another attractant for flower-visiting insects. We have identified fluorescent compounds from pollen and anthers of five plant species as hydroxycinnamoyl derivatives. The fluorescent compounds are also shown to quench UV energy and exhibit antioxidant activity, indicating a function as protectants of pollen genes from UV-induced damage. A two-choice assay using honeybees in the field demonstrated that they perceived the blue fluorescence emitted from the fluorescent compounds and were attracted to it. This result suggested that the fluorescence from pollen and anthers serves as a visual cue to attract pollinators under sunlight.
Journal of Chemical Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: May 2, 2018
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