Chemical ecology of Yucca-Yucca moth interactions
- Yucca plants are actively pollinated by female Yucca moths (Tegeticula spp.: above B) in one of the textbook examples of obligate mutualism in nature. Developing larvae eat some but not all fertilized ovules; no seeds are produced in the moths’ absence.
- Related moths in the Prodoxidae show the full spectrum of interactions with Yucca plants, from mutualistic pollinators and parasitic “cheaters” (Parategeticula and Tegeticula) to commensalistic stem boring species (Prodoxus).
- Male Tegeticula and Prodoxus moths alike seek mates in Yucca flowers (D), and are attracted to sticky traps baited with these flowers at night (below, second from right).
- Yucca floral scent is chemically unusual, with long chain alkanes and alkenes and a group of oxygenated homoterpenoids, some of which are new to Science.
- Is female yucca moth pollination behavior mediated by Yucca floral scent?
- Do male yucca moths respond to Yucca floral odors as surrogate pheromones?
- What are the chemical structures and behavioral functions of the scent compounds that elicit the most sensitive antennal responses?
- Does scent function as an isolating mechanism among sympatric Yuccas?
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