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The chemical ecology and evolution of bee-flower interactions: a review and perspectives

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Abstract:

Bees and angiosperms have shared a long and intertwined evolutionary history and their interactions have resulted in remarkable adaptations. Yet, at a time when the “pollination crisis” is of major concern as natural populations of both wild and honey bees (Apis mellifera L., 1758) face alarming decline rates at a worldwide scale, there are important gaps in our understanding of the ecology and evolution of bee-flower interactions. In this review, we summarize and discuss the current knowledge about the role of floral chemistry versus other communication channels in bee-pollinated flowering plants, both at the macro- and micro-evolutionary levels, and across the specialization-generalization gradient. The available data illustrate that floral scents and floral chemistry have been largely overlooked in bee-flower interactions, and that pollination studies integrating these components along with pollinator behaviour in a phylogenetic context will help gain considerable insights into the sensory ecology and the evolution of bees and their associated flowering plants.

Les abeilles et les angiospermes partagent une grande partie de leur histoire évolutive, et leurs interactions ont produit de remarquables exemples d’adaptations mutuelles. Cependant, à une époque où la « crise de la pollinisation » devient une préoccupation majeure et où les populations d’abeilles sauvages et mellifères (Apis mellifera L., 1758) font face à des déclins massifs à l’échelle mondiale, notre compréhension de l’écologie et de l’évolution des relations abeilles-plantes demeure fragmentaire. Dans cet article, nous fournissons une synthèse de l’état de nos connaissances relatives au rôle de la communication chimique par rapport aux autres signaux floraux chez les plantes à fleurs pollinisées par les abeilles, tant à l’échelle macro- que micro-évolutive, et le long du gradient spécialisation-généralisation. Les données disponibles illustrent que les parfums floraux et la chimie florale ont largement été ignorés dans l’étude des interactions abeilles-fleurs, et que l’intégration de ces composantes ainsi que du comportement des pollinisateurs dans un contexte phylogénétique permettrait de réaliser des avancées significatives dans notre compréhension de l’écologie sensorielle et de l’évolution des abeilles et des plantes à fleurs auxquelles elles sont associées.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2010

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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