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Ever since the role of insects in cycad pollination was first proposed by H.H.W. Pearson in 1906, there have been questions about the role that cone volatiles play in mediating the interaction between cycads and their insect pollinators. A series of studies over the past five years have greatly increased knowledge on the volatiles occurring in Encephalartos Lehm. and their potential role in influencing pollinator behavior. This paper examines the advances made in these studies and how they affect our interpretation of cycad pollination ecology. The analyses show that several compounds in Encephalartos villosus Lem. attract pollinators and provide the first evidence of pollinators attracted to traps baited with particular volatile compounds within Encephalartos cycads. The review also shows how the composition of cone odor can vary across the distribution of a species with no apparent change in pollinators. The paper examines convergence in cone odors between species occurring in the same area and puts these results into context with other studies of cycad pollination.
Keywords: Encephalartos, pollination, push-pull, volatiles
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