, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 1035-1044

Genetic Analysis of Benzoquinone Production in Tribolium confusum

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Many species of tenebrionid beetles produce and secrete benzoquinones from specialized prothoracic and postabdominal glands. Tribolium confusum produces two compounds methyl-1,4-benzoquinone (MBQ) and ethyl-1,4-benzoquinone (EBQ). These compounds are hypothesized to function as external defense compounds, killing microbes and deterring predators, and their ability to evolve by natural selection depends on both selection and the genetic vs. environmental contribution to phenotypic variation. We crossed a strain of T. confusum that produces high quantities of benzoquinones, b-Pakistan, with a low-producing strain, b−+, and measured both the internal and external quantities of MBQ and EBQ for the two extreme strains and their F1 progeny. Internal amounts show a clear pattern of inheritance, with at least 50% of the phenotypic variation attributed to genotype. Additive and dominance coefficients for internal amounts indicate that the trait is additive with no significant dominance. In contrast, external quantities show little pattern of inheritance. The role of genetics and environment in determining quantities of secretory defensive compounds is important to elucidating the ecology and evolutionary potential of chemical defenses.