Citation Goulson D, McGuire K, Munro EE, Adamson S, Colliar L, Park K, Tinsley MC & Gilburn A (2009) Functional significance of the dark central floret of Daucus carota (Apiaceae) L.; is it an insect mimic?. Plant Species Biology, 24 (2), pp. 77-82. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1442-1984.2009.00240.x
Abstract In Daucus carota L. (Apiaceae) the florets comprising the central umbellet of inflorescences are usually pink or dark purple, presenting a marked contrast to the surrounding umbellets, which are generally white. The number of dark florets varies, and some inflorescences have no dark florets. It has been proposed that the dark florets function as an insect mimic, and in so doing serve to attract insects to the flower. In contrast, other authors, Darwin included, suggest that they are functionally redundant. The present study examined whether the dark florets attract insects, and also whether this effect can be replicated by replacing these florets with an insect. At the study site in Portugal the predominant insect visitor was the beetle Anthrenus verbasci L. (Dermestidae), which is similar in size and shape to the dark florets. Large inflorescences and those with more dark florets attracted more beetles than small inflorescences and those with fewer or no dark florets. Inflorescences with the dark florets removed attracted fewer beetles visitors compared with intact inflorescences. Inflorescences in which the dark florets were replaced with one or a cluster of five dead, freeze-killed A. verbasci attracted more beetles than inflorescences from which the dark florets had been removed. Replacement of the dark florets with a relatively large Meloid beetle resulted in the attraction of markedly fewer A. verbasci. We conclude that the dark florets can act as an insect attractant for some insect groups by acting as an insect mimic, and that they are adaptive, in contrast to the speculations of Darwin.