Do flower color and floral scent of silene species affect host preference of Hadena bicruris, a seed-eating pollinator, under field conditions?

PLoS One. 2014 Jun 6;9(6):e98755. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098755. eCollection 2014.


Specialization in plant-insect interactions is an important driver of evolutionary divergence; yet, plant traits mediating such interactions are poorly understood. In this study, we investigated how flower color and floral scent are related to seed predation by a seed-eating pollinator. We used field-transplanted recombinant F2 hybrids between Silene latifolia and S. dioica that are the preferred and alternative hosts of the moth Hadena bicruris and crosses within these species for comparison. We scored seed predation and flower color and analyzed floral scent. Pinker S. dioica-like flowers and emission of α-pinene decreased the odds of seed predation while emission of benzyl acetate and 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one increased the odds of seed predation. Emission of these compounds did not differ significantly between the two Silene species. Our results suggest that flower color plays an important role in the specific interaction of H. bicruris with its preferred host S. latifolia. The compounds α-pinene, benzyl acetate and 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one could represent non-specific deterrents and attractants to ovipositing moths. Alternatively, emission of these compounds could be related to herbivory or pathogen attack and act as a signal for host quality. This would weaken the predictability of the plant's costs and benefits of the interaction and act to maintain an imperfect degree of specialization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Flowers / metabolism*
  • Host Specificity*
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Lepidoptera / physiology*
  • Odorants / analysis
  • Pigmentation*
  • Pollination*
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Seeds
  • Silene / genetics
  • Silene / metabolism*

Grant support

This research was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (, grants no. 31003A-112342 to FPS and no. 31003A-118221 to SK and a project grant of the Swedish Research Council (VR, to SK. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.