Fragrance biology of orchid bees

Publié le par M@rtine

Désolée pour les personnes qui ne comprennent pas l'anglais, mais ce que je découvre aujourd'hui me paraît trop fabuleux pour ne pas le partager... Le petit film qui suit, même commenté en anglais, permet néanmoins d'imager explicitement ce que des scientifiques ont observé à propos de l'abeille orchidée...

Pour faire très bref et prendre un raccourci très simpliste par rapport à la symbiose complexe qui s'opère entre l'insecte et la plante, l'abeille orchidée ne se nourrit pas en virevoltant autour de cette lumineuse orchidée mexicaine Mormodes badia ni ne collecte le pollen bien qu'elle possède les poches adéquates tout comme nos abeilles à miel...

Non, elle se parfume ! Et seuls les mâles, utilisant leur pattes antérieures pour brosser les phéromones, récupèrent et s'enduisent de ce parfum pour attirer les femelles ! Bien entendu, en contrepartie, l'orchidée confie ses pollinies à l'abeille qui les transmettra à une autre orchidée pour assurer la pérennité de l'espèce...

C'est-y pas beau la nature ?




Etrait du site : de l'Université de Dusseldorf

Neotropical orchid bees or euglossine bees (Apidae: Euglossini) are characterized by their very long tongues and by a unique behavior of males. Male orchid bees collect scents (fragrances) from all sorts of fragrant objects, including flowers, tree wounds, decaying wood, and feces, and store them in hind leg pockets. That behavior is exploited by a great variety of neotropical orchids that attract euglossines as their exclusive pollinators. The males can also be baited with artificial fragrance compounds (cineole, methyl salycilate, vanillin etc.), and this technique has been used by a number of studies in population ecology. It is however unresolved why the males collect fragrances.

Together with Mark Whitten (Florida Museum of Natural History) and David Roubik (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) I found that individual males continuously forage for scents over much of their long lives and finally accumulate large quantities of complex blends (Eltz et al. 1999). As fragrances are hard to come by we hypothesized that they serve as indicators of male quality (viability, survival) and are judged by female bees prior to mating.

Matings take place in small territories that are established by males around the stems of small trees in the forest. Here, the males show a typical display behavior that involves frequent landings on the perch and short inspection flights to the near neighborhood. Female visits to these territories are very rare.

If females prefer to mate with males that have rich and sexy bouquets, than the behavior of fragrance collection could have evolved through sexual selection. We tested this hypothesis (female preference) with cage experiments in Panama and obtained the first video shots of orchid bee matings (Eltz, Roubik & Whitten, 2003).
Using high-speed video and tracer experiments we have demonstrated that fragrances are exposed by males during display. We observed an intricate and highly repetitive leg movement during display of caged males of Euglossa cognata. Single-frame analysis demonstrated that the behavior involves several morphological structures of hitherto unknown function and suggests transfer of substances from the hind leg pocket to a tuft of hairs on the contralateral mid leg. Body-side-specific fluorescent dye application and consecutive detection of signals on males after display confirmed this transfer (Eltz, Sager & Lunau, 2005). 

Deposited on the mid tibial tufts, the fragrances are ideally placed in order to become ventilated by jugal combs on the wing bases, as suggested by Bembé (2004). Being clearly distinct from motor patterns involved in fragrance collection, the described movement is continuously performed by displaying males, suggesting an equally continuous exposure of volatiles. Chemically the fragrances are species-specific even when individuals from distant and ecologically divergent localities are considered (Eltz, Roubik & Lunau, 2005). Hexane extracts of male hind legs of two sympatric species of Eulaema exposed at their respective display sites on Barro Colorado Island quickly and exclusively attracted males of the "correct" species, which demonstrates that tibial fragrances can potentially mediate specific attraction (Zimmermann, Roubik & Eltz, 2006). However, it is unclear whether conspecific males are the true signal adressees or whether they are simply eavesdropping on other males' mating "calls".

More recently we have extended our geographical scope to work with Euglossa viridissima in the Mexican state of Yucatán, where we collaborate with Javier Quezada-Euan (Departamento de Apicultura, Mérida). We have shown in cage experiments with isotopically labelled materials that males use an intricate conveyor belt mechanism for fragrance collection and concentration (Eltz et al. 2007). Further research is currently done on male fragrance morphs and the potential for fragrance driven sympatric speciation. For this we combine chemical, experimental and molecular approaches.
 
 

Commenter cet article

Pourquoi pas 30/03/2008 00:25

Merci de partager ce petit film très intéressant

M@rtine :0026: 30/03/2008 12:03


J'ai beaucoup aimé également !


Elie 07/03/2008 20:01

Merci Martine, le film est magnifique! Juste entre parenthèse, je suis allée mettre un commentaire chez Claude, et bien après Toi sans avoir lu les comm.avant... Va voir c'est assez drôle nos même suggestion!Bonne soiréeElie

M@rtine :0026: 07/03/2008 22:34

Oui, je suis allée voir... Très drôle en effet ! J'imagine bien Claude en train de se documenter sur les mandalas ce soir ! :-)))Bonne soirée Elie

chrisalain 07/03/2008 15:18

certains males devraient s'en inspirer!!!! LOL!!!! extraordinaire que cette nature que detruit l'etre humain

M@rtine :0026: 07/03/2008 17:01

Tout à fait d'accord avec tes deux remarques ! ;-)

Cath la Cigale 07/03/2008 11:32

Sont trop mignonnes ces tites bébètes qui se parfument pour séduire lol !!!! Et ces orchidées sont trop malines.... Darwin avait bien raison de dire que chaque chose est adaptée à une autre dans l'évolution....

M@rtine :0026: 07/03/2008 16:58

T'as compris pourquoi nos mâles à nous se passent de "l'after chèvre" ! :-)))

elmini 07/03/2008 09:17

C'est quand même bien fait la nature!

M@rtine :0026: 07/03/2008 09:45

Ah ouais, moi j'suis soufflée, quand même !