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Petunia flowers solve the defence/apparency dilemma of pollinator attraction by deploying complex floral blends


Correspondence: E-mail: baldwin@


Flowers recruit floral visitors for pollination services by emitting fragrances. These scent signals can be intercepted by antagonists such as florivores to locate host plants. Hence, as a consequence of interactions with both mutualists and antagonists, floral bouquets likely consist of both attractive and defensive components. While the attractive functions of floral bouquets have been studied, their defensive function has not, and field-based evidence for the deterrence of floral-scent constituents is lacking. In field and glasshouse experiments with five lines of transgenic Petunia x hybrida plants specifically silenced in their ability to release particular components of their floral volatile bouquet, we demonstrate that the emission of single floral-scent compounds can dramatically decrease damage from generalist florivores. While some compounds are used in host location, others prevent florivory. We conclude that the complex blends that comprise floral scents are likely sculpted by the selective pressures of both pollinators and herbivores.