Helicodiceros muscivorus

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The helicodiceros muscivirous (also known as dead-horse arum) is a flowering plant species of the Araceae family, native in Mediterranean regions such as Corsica, Sardinia, Crete and Balearic islands. In Corsica 30 known populations are located on limestone and granite rocks crevices on islets or along the coast and also on island rocky cliffs on the main island. The plant uses its heat production to produce a foul smell that attracts blowflies to enter its chambers for pollination.[1] It is one of most common plants known for its uniqueness in thermogeny production. Up to today the plant still is researched for the way the plant is able to produce its own heat without being necessarily dependent of ambient temperature.[2] Within the Araceae familiy the plant is part of the Aroideae subfamily, and although the origin of the name its unknown, it can be concluded that is named after the plant's appearance of a carcass.


The inflorescences of the arum lilies is a three part spadix which resembles the anal area of a dead mammal. In between there is a hairy spathe such as a ‘tail’ running long down into the chamber of the flower which bands with the fertile male and female florets. The appendix and the male florets are thermogenic, but both have a different temporal pattern. It's exits of the female florets is hindered by spine and filament which serve to trap the blowflies once inside.[3] Its male florets exhibit independence from the ambient temperatures as it has been found through research that heat production depends on the time of the day rather than ambient temperatures. Also, uncoupling protein was found in both of the thermogenic male florets and appendix. There is 1178 nucleotides in length in the dead-horse arum mRNA excluding the poly-A tail and its believed to have a protein of 304 amino acids. It also posses three mitochondrial carrier signature domains, six membrane spanning domains, and one nucleotide binding domain to be known as well by its characteristics of the unknown uncoupling protein. Potato and Rice have been compared to the plant at times due to its typical features of the uncoupling protein. Uncoupling protein plays a big role into the production of energy to become heat.[4]


The dead-horse arum manipulates the heat to release an odor that lures the flies to the structure of the appendix of the flower to begin pollination. This odor is a strong putrid smell, its composition has a similarity to a real carcass which flies are not able to differ from a real carcass. Blowflies find the horrific smell and possible the fleshy colored hairy inflorescence of the plant irresistible and retracts in large numbers into the plant. It has been found in research that the thermogeny has a direct effect on the pollinators, by altering their behavior. Although male florets of the dead-horse arum exhibit some independence from ambient temperature the pattern has shown that heat production depends on time of the day. Pollination occurs in to two days.[2] During a research it was recorded it's highest temperatures of the plant to have increase by noon on day 1. The appendix temperature was 12.4C higher than ambient temperature. During day 1, the eight plants flowering, scored the behavior of a total 881 fly visits.[3] Thermogeny has been linked to be produced by the uncoupling protein that has been found on the plant. This type of protein does not complete the process to ATP synthesis, instead it allows electrons to flow through, into the mitochondria without creating ATP. Thus, the result of creating a lot more energy which causes that extra energy to dissipate into heat.[4]


The dead-horse arum has a two-day process for pollination. The individual flowers is able to receive pollen for 1 day only and usually that day its male parts are not mature. Although the next day the male is able to produce pollen, the female shrivels up and can not receive it.[1] Thus the solution is its Thermogeny. When ready to pollinate the plant produces its own heat and generate a rotten smell like rotting flesh. This smell attracts the blowflies into the chamber of the plant for pollination. Once the flies inside; they are trapped in the chamber by spines that are blocking the exit path.[3] The flies carrying pollen from previous visits to other flowers including others as same as them, cover the female floret with that pollen; as they try to find a place where to lay their eggs. The flies remained trapped overnight, and the spines remain erect; until the male florets at the entrance of the chamber start producing pollen and the female florets are no longer receptive, upon which the spines wilt and the flies are able to leave. Just as the flies leave they have to pass through the male florets and again are coated with pollen.[5]


  1. ^ a b Stensmyr, Marcus C., et al. “Pollination: Rotting Smell of Dead- Horse Arum Florets.” Nature 420.6916 (2002): 625-6.ProQuest.Web.29 Oct. 2014. http://0search.proquest.com.library2.pima.edu/biologyjournals/docview/204482339/294A9FD32A0B44A6PQ/1?accountid=13194.
  2. ^ a b R, S., Seymour, M., Gibernau., and S.A Pirintsos. (2009), Thermogenesis of three species of Arum from Crete. Plant, Cell & Environment, 32:1467-1476.doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3040.2009.02015.x. Http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/do/10.1111/j.1365-3040.2009.02015.x/full
  3. ^ a b c Angioy, A. M., Stensmyr, M. C., Urru, I., Puliafito, M., Collu, I., and Hansson, B.S., Function of the heater; The dead horse arum revisited. 7 february 2004 doi:101098/rsbl.2003.0111Proc.R.Soc.Lond.B 7 february 2004 vol.271.n0.Suppl 3 S13-S15.Http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/271/Suppl_3/S13.short
  4. ^ a b Ito, K., Yukie, A. Johnston, S. D., Seymour, R.S., Ubiquitous expression of a gene encoding for uncoupling protein isolated from the thermogenic inflorescence of the dead horse arum Helicodiceros muscivorus. J. Exp. Bot. (2003) 54(384): 1113-1114.doi: 10.1093/jxb/erg 115. http://jxb.oxfordjournals.org/content/54/384/1114.short
  5. ^ R. S., Seymour, M., Gibernau., K. Ito. Thermogenesis and respiration of inflorescences of the dead horse arum Helicodiceros muscivorus, a pseudo-thermorgulatory aroid associated with fly pollination.11 Dec 2003.DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2435.2003.00802.x. Http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2435.2003.00802.x/full

External links[edit]

Dead Horse Arum (with pictures and video) on www.realmonstrosities.com


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