A unique plant in Greece was recently found to be producing odor like that of decaying insects, perhaps a strategy to entice and eventually trap coffin flies.

A SciencAlert report specified that the stinky plant is called Aristolochia microstoma, and according to scientists, it is the first identified case of a plant reeking of dead invertebrates to spread its pollen.

Megaselia scalaris or coffin flies, as their name suggests, search for decaying matter in which they can have their eggs laid, therefore providing food for the hatched larvae. This typically means feces or vertebrae corpse.

Nevertheless, the cocktail of odors that the A. microsotoma is producing is slightly different from the smell dead mammals are emitting.

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Science Times - Unique Plant Produces Odor Similar to Dead Insects: A Tactic in Attracting, Trapping Coffin Flies
(Photo: Daniel Capilla on Wikimedia Commons)
Aristolochia plant species

Aristolochia Microstoma

In a similar report, EurekAlert! specified that according to Austria-based Paris-Lodron University of Salzurg's Thomas Rupp, a lot of Aristolochia species are famous for attracting flies that have floral scents, for instance, mimicking the smell of feces or meat of mammals, fungi, or decaying plants.

However, their curiosity was piqued by A. microstoma, a species identified from Greece, different from other Aristolochia species with their so-called "showy flowers," this one is described to have unremarkable brownish flowers lying horizontally, partially buried or near the ground among rocks or leaf litters.

Essentially, the expert said, the said flowers produce an unpleasant, carrion-like scent, which people easily notice at a short distance.

Flies are the Earth's second most important pollinators, and in some areas, they may even be considered more important than bees when it comes to spreading pollen. That said, they are frequently overlooked as plants' key pollinators.

Megaselia Genus Stuck

Examining over 1,400 of the said trap flowers from three areas in Greece, UPI reported, the study authors discovered different members of the Megaselia genus stuck inside.

Upon entry to the flower, the insects get stuck. Trapped in the tiny hair-like growths of the plant, the flies are depositing any pollen they have picked from other flowers, fertilizing the plant's female parts.

Before the bristles of the flowers shrink and expose an exit, the flies are covered too, with pollen from the plant's male parts to spread in another area.

When the research team analyzed further, the smell of such blooms, they discovered about 16 compounds all smelling like decomposing meat.

One of the said compounds, as describe di the study, Flowers of Deceptive Aristolochia microstoma Are Pollinated by Phorid Flies and Emit Volatiles Known From Invertebrate Carrion, published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, the alkylpyrazine 2,5-dimethylpyrazine, produces a musty, roasted scent like that of a nut's. It occurs too, to smell like the urine of rodents and decaying beetles.

Mimicking a Strange Fake Reward to Attract Pollinators

The authors of the study said, very few plants are known to generate such a compound, strongly suggesting that A. microstoma is mimicking a strange fake reward to entice specialist pollinators. Interestingly, they wrote, vertebrate carrion is not known to produce 2,5-demethylpyrazine, either.

According to Stefan Dottlerl, a plant ecologist from the Botanical Gardens at the Paris-Lodron University of Salzburg, their study findings suggest that this is the first-ever known occurrence of a flower strategizing against pollinators by producing an odor like dead or rotting insects, instead of vertebrate carrion.

Even the location of A. microstoma which is very near the ground may add to the deception as well, more extensively tricking the coffin flies, as described in ScienceDirect into thinking they have discovered one of their customary breeding or feeding sites.

What comes next is that the study authors are planning to test just how attractive these particular flies find the odor compounds to verify that the dead insect scent is the real tactic of A. microstoma.

Related information about coffin flies is shown on BitUpload's YouTube video below:

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