Make love not war: a common arthropod defence compound as sex pheromone in the forest cockchafer Melolontha hippocastani
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Mate finding in the forest cockchafer, Melolontha hippocastani, occurs during a spectacular swarming period at dusk. The swarming flights are mainly performed by males whereas most of the females stay within the host trees and continue feeding. Males orientate towards damage-induced green leaf volatiles (GLV) allowing location of mechanically damaged foliage. In order to distinguish between unspecific leaf damage and damage caused by feeding females, male cockchafers orientate by a sex attractant. Here we show this compound to be 1,4-benzoquinone, which has been known for more than 40 years as a highly effective defence compound used by numerous arthropod species to repel enemies. 1,4-benzoquinone synergistically increased the number of males caught in GLV-baited funnel traps during the swarming period. Significantly more males landed on wire cages baited with a combination of 1,4-benzoquinone and GLV than on cages baited with only GLV. The results suggest that the sex pheromone of M. hippocastani might have evolved from a primary role as a defence compound.
KeywordsMate finding Sex pheromone Plant volatiles Melolontha hippocastani Scarabaeidae
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