Role of surface chemical signals in egg cannibalism and intraguild predation in ladybirds (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae)
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The eggs of some ladybirds are known to be toxic to intraguild ladybird predators. However, this defence is of little value if the eggs are killed before their toxicity becomes apparent. The results presented in this paper indicate that chemicals on the surface of the eggs of two species of ladybirds signal the relative risk of cannibalism and intraguild predation. In Adalia bipunctata and Coccinella septempunctata, 87% of the chemicals are alkanes. Each species of ladybird is less reluctant to eat their own eggs than those of the other species. This asymmetry is to be expected because there is a greater risk to ladybirds from intraguild predation than cannibalism. Similar alkanes to those on the surface of the eggs of A. bipunctata are present in tracks left by larvae and on the elytra of the adults of this species. Those in the larval tracks deter females from ovipositing in patches of prey already being attacked by their larvae and those on the elytra are used in mate recognition. That different context dependent messages could be signalled by similar chemicals is an example of semiochemical parsimony.
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