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A sheep in wolf's clothing: do carrion and dung odours of flowers not only attract pollinators but also deter herbivores?

Authors

  • Simcha Lev-Yadun,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Science Education - Biology, Faculty of Science and Science Education, University of Haifa - Oranim, Tivon, Israel
    • Department of Science Education - Biology, Faculty of Science and Science Education, University of Haifa - Oranim, Tivon 36006, Israel.
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  • Gidi Ne'eman,

    1. Department of Science Education - Biology, Faculty of Science and Science Education, University of Haifa - Oranim, Tivon, Israel
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  • Uri Shanas

    1. Department of Science Education - Biology, Faculty of Science and Science Education, University of Haifa - Oranim, Tivon, Israel
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Abstract

Carrion and dung odours of various flowers have traditionally been considered an adaptation for attracting the flies and beetles that pollinate them. While we accept the role of such odours in pollinator attraction, we propose that they may also have another, overlooked, anti-herbivore defensive function. We suggest that such odours may deter mammalian herbivores, especially during the critical period of flowering. Carrion odour is a good predictor for two potential dangers to mammalian herbivores: (1) pathogenic microbes, (2) proximity of carnivores. Similarly, dung odour predicts faeces-contaminated habitats that present high risks of parasitism. These are two new types of repulsive olfactory aposematic mimicry by plants: (1) olfactory feigning of carcass (thanatosis), a well-known behavioural defensive strategy in animals, (2) olfactory mimicry of faeces, which also has a defensive visual parallel in animals.

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