Attraction of two larval parasitoids with varying degree of host specificity to single components and a binary mixture of host-related plant volatiles
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As an indirect defense to herbivore attack, plants release many types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which guide parasitoids to their herbivore hosts. In the present study, VOCs were categorized as those released passively from undamaged plants and herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs). HIPVs were further categorized into: (1) volatiles released by fresh damage plants, and (2) volatiles released by old damage plants. We used as models, two parasitoids with different degree of host specificity, Microplitis croceipes (specialist) and Cotesia marginiventris (generalist), to address the evolutionary and mechanistic question of whether specialist and generalist parasitoids differ in their use of VOCs for host location. Both species are solitary larval endoparasitoids in the same family (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) and are important parasitoids of caterpillar pests of cotton. Based on the results of previous studies, α-pinene, (Z)-3-hexenol, and (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate were selected as representatives of the different types of VOCs in cotton. The attraction of both parasitoid species to synthetic components and a binary mixture of the above VOCs was tested in four-choice olfactometer bioassays. Female M. croceipes showed the greatest attraction to the HIPVs while female C. marginiventris could not discriminate among the three VOCs. Conspecific males showed similar responses with a few exceptions. When presented with the choices; α-pinene, (Z)-3-hexenol and a binary mixture (50:50v/v) of the two compounds, the specialist showed the greatest attraction to the mixture. However, the mixture did not elicit such an additive effect on the attraction of the generalist. Overall response latency (time taken to choose VOCs) indicated species and sexual (in the specialist) differences. Using a simple model, this study provides a fundamental insight into odor preferences and discriminatory ability of the test parasitoids. The ecological significance and practical implications of these results are discussed.
KeywordsVolatiles organic compounds Specialist Generalist Host location Four-choice olfactometer Response latency
We thank Erica Williams, Matthew McTernan and Savannah Duke for rearing the insects used for this study.
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