Millipede Defensive Compounds Are a Double-Edged Sword: Natural History of the Millipede-Parasitic Genus Myriophora Brown (Diptera: Phoridae)


Toxic defensive secretions produced by millipedes in the orders Julida, Spirobolida, Spirostreptida, and Polydesmida are highly repellent to most vertebrate and invertebrate natural enemies, but a few insects have evolved mechanisms to overcome these defenses. We demonstrate that highly specialized parasitic phorid flies in the species-rich genus Myriophora use volatile millipede defensive compounds as kairomones for host location. Of the two predominant quinone components in the defensive blend of juliform millipedes, 2-methoxy-3-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone alone was sufficient to attract adult flies of both sexes; however, a combination of 2-methoxy-3-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone and 2-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone increased attractiveness nearly threefold. We further discuss oviposition behavior, adult and larval feeding habits, life history parameters, and the potential competitive interactions between phorid flies in the genus Myriophora and other millipede-associated insects.

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We thank Maosheng Foo and Wei-Song Hwang of National University of Singapore for laboratory and field assistance and helping with collection permits. Emily Hartop assisted with collecting data on attraction of parasitoids to quinones in Singapore. Eduardo Amat organized the Colombia field trip and acquired research permits. The research was funded by the National Geographic Society, the Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity section of the Entomological Society of America, and the Center for Integrative Biological Collections at the University of California, Riverside.

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Hash, J.M., Millar, J.G., Heraty, J.M. et al. Millipede Defensive Compounds Are a Double-Edged Sword: Natural History of the Millipede-Parasitic Genus Myriophora Brown (Diptera: Phoridae). J Chem Ecol 43, 198–206 (2017).

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  • Kairomone
  • Allomone
  • Diplopoda
  • Parasitoid
  • Host location
  • Chemical ecology
  • Behavior
  • Benzoquinone