Ecological and genetic consequences of pollination by sexual deception in the orchid Caladenia tentactulata

Rod Peakall*, Andrew J. Beattie

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    186 Citations (Scopus)


    Only orchids affect pollination by the deceptive sexual attraction of male insects, a syndrome particularly well developed in Australia. We examined the ecological and genetic consequences of exclusive pollination by sexually attracted male thynnine wasps in the orchid Caladenia tentaculata. Male wasps respond rapidly to flowers artificially presented in 1 x 1 m2 experimental patches. Sixty of 287 wasps approached within centimeters of the flower, but did not land. Of the remaining 79% who made floral contact, only 7.5% attempted copulation, the step critical for pollination Wasps only rarely moved among patches (19% of flights) and none attempted copulation a second time, resembling observations in natural populations. We confirmed outcrossing and long distance pollen flow by monitoring how colored pollen moved in natural populations. Pollen movements approximated a linear rather than a leptokurtic distribution (mean distance: 17 m; maximum: 58 m). Pollinator visits varied independently of flower density in three of four populations with most solitary flowers being visited. Allozyme analysis revealed within-population fixation indices (F) close to zero and low levels of differentiation (FST) among populations. Despite behavioral evidence for long distance pollen flow, significant local genetic structure exists, perhaps reflecting restricted seed dispersal. Long distance pollen flow in C. tentaculata may therefore promote outbreeding by minimizing pollen transfers among related neighbors. Although this species is self-compatible, outcrossed progeny develop significantly faster than selfed progeny. Effective pollination at low flower densities could accentuate this advantage. The data are consistent with the predictions that deceptive pollination will result in long distance pollen flow, which may be of selective advantage at low density. Comparative studies of how food reward, food deceptive, and sexual deceptive pollination systems vary within a phylogenetic framework could further illuminate the evolution of sexual deception.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2207-2220
    Number of pages14
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 1996


    • orchid
    • outcrossing
    • pollen flow
    • pollination
    • population genetic structure
    • pseudocopulation
    • selection
    • sexual deception


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