Profiles of cuticular hydrocarbons mediate male mate choice and sexual isolation between hybridising Chrysochus (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae)
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- Peterson, M.A., Dobler, S., Larson, E.L. et al. Chemoecology (2007) 17: 87. doi:10.1007/s00049-007-0366-z
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Chemical signals frequently underlie sexual isolation between insect species. Our understanding of the evolutionary forces influencing these signaling systems is known for very few systems, challenging both our efforts to understand insect speciation, and our ability to predict long-term changes in the chemical communication systems of insects. Thus, we are in need of more systems in which both the chemical signals causing sexual isolation and the evolutionary forces driving sexual isolation are understood. Sexual isolation in the hybrid zone between Chrysochus cobaltinus and C. auratus has apparently increased in response to natural selection against hybridisation (i.e. reinforcement). Previous experiments suggested that this isolation was due, at least in part, to male preferences for conspecific females. Here, we confirm this role of male choice, and document that male mate choice in this system is influenced by cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) profiles. Specifically, male C. cobaltinus responses to control cadavers and conspecific female cadavers painted with different cuticular hexane extracts, together with analyses of the composition of those extracts, revealed that male mate choice is governed by CHC profiles. Multivariate analyses of GC profiles demonstrated that those profiles are indeed both sex- and species-specific. Although GC-MS enabled identification and quantification of the specific cuticular hydrocarbons, we have not yet determined which individual compounds govern mate choice. Having established that CHCs influence sexual isolation in this system, we can now assess the evolutionary lability of these cues, which will inform both our understanding of speciation, and of the conditions under which the chemical signaling systems that influence mate choice in insects can evolve.