Floral CO2 emission may indicate food abundance to nectar-feeding moths

Pablo G. Guerenstein, Enrico A. Yepez, Joost Van Haren, David G. Williams, John G. Hildebrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


As part of a study of the roles of the sensory subsystem devoted to CO 2 in the nectar-feeding moth Manduca sexta, we investigated CO 2 release and nectar secretion by flowers of Datura wrightii, a preferred host-plant of Manduca. Datura flowers open at dusk and wilt by the following noon. During the first hours after dusk, when Manduca feeds, the flowers produce considerable amounts of nectar and emit levels of CO2 that should be detectable by moths nearby. By midnight, however, both nectar secretion and CO2 release decrease significantly. Because nectar production requires high metabolic activity, high floral CO2 emission may indicate food abundance to the moths. We suggest that hovering moths could use the florally emitted CO2 to help them assess the nectar content before attempting to feed in order to improve their foraging efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-333
Number of pages5
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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