A Phylogenomic Analysis of the Floral Transcriptomes of Sexually Deceptive and Rewarding European Orchids, Ophrys and Gymnadenia

Laura Piñeiro Fernández, Kelsey J.R.P. Byers, Jing Cai, Khalid E.M. Sedeek, Roman T. Kellenberger, Alessia Russo, Weihong Qi, Catharine Aquino Fournier, Philipp M. Schlüter

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23 Scopus citations


The orchids (Orchidaceae) constitute one of the largest and most diverse families of flowering plants. They have evolved a great variety of adaptations to achieve pollination by a diverse group of pollinators. Many orchids reward their pollinators, typically with nectar, but the family is also well-known for employing deceptive pollination strategies in which there is no reward for the pollinator, in the most extreme case by mimicking sexual signals of pollinators. In the European flora, two examples of these different pollination strategies are the sexually deceptive genus Ophrys and the rewarding genus Gymnadenia, which differ in their level of pollinator specialization; Ophrys is typically pollinated by pseudo-copulation of males of a single insect species, whilst Gymnadenia attracts a broad range of floral visitors. Here, we present and describe the annotated floral transcriptome of Ophrys iricolor, an Andrena-pollinated representative of the genus Ophrys that is widespread throughout the Aegean. Furthermore, we present additional floral transcriptomes of both sexually deceptive and rewarding orchids, specifically the deceptive Ophrys insectifera, Ophrys aymoninii, and an updated floral transcriptome of Ophrys sphegodes, as well as the floral transcriptomes of the rewarding orchids Gymnadenia conopsea, Gymnadenia densiflora, Gymnadenia odoratissima, and Gymnadenia rhellicani (syn. Nigritella rhellicani). Comparisons of these novel floral transcriptomes reveal few annotation differences between deceptive and rewarding orchids. Since together, these transcriptomes provide a representative sample of the genus-wide taxonomic diversity within Ophrys and Gymnadenia (Orchidoideae: Orchidinae), we employ a phylogenomic approach to address open questions of phylogenetic relationships within the genera. Specifically, this includes the controversial placement of O. insectifera within the Ophrys phylogeny and the placement of “Nigritella”-type morphologies within the phylogeny of Gymnadenia. Whereas in Gymnadenia, several conflicting topologies are supported by a similar number of gene trees, a majority of Ophrys gene topologies clearly supports a placement of O. insectifera as sister to a clade containing O. sphegodes.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - Nov 29 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We wish to thank Kriton Kalantidis, University of Crete, for access to his lab and support during sampling. We thank Karin Gross, Danae Laina and Daniel Gervasi for help with field work and sample collection, Shuqing Xu for sharing his scripts, and Florian Schiestl for support and sharing data. We also thank our funding sources as well as members of the Schlüter and Schiestl labs for assistance and helpful discussions.


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