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Antipredator activity and endogenous biosynthesis of defensive secretion in larval and pupal Delphastus catalinae (Horn) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae)

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Abstract

Delphastus catalinae (Horn) is a predatory ladybird beetle (Coccinellidae) commonly used as a biocontrol agent against greenhouse infestation by whiteflies. It belongs to the basal subfamily Microweisinae, a group for which chemical defenses have not been previously investigated. The larval and pupal stages of D. catalinae possess minute secretory hairs that produce droplets containing compounds of both isoprenoid and polyketide origin. Bioassays with the predatory ant Crematogaster lineolata showed both the larval and pupal secretions to be deterrent. Moreover, isolated secretion components, from both classes of compounds, displayed antipredator activity against the ant. Experiments with D. catalinae larvae fed isotopically labeled glucose showed 13C-incorporation into both categories of compounds within the pupal secretion, demonstrating that these antipredator compounds, which differ from the typical nitrogenous defensive molecules of coccinellids, are biosynthesized endogenously. This suggests that the wide use of alkaloids by more derived coccinellids may have arisen after their divergence from the more basal Microweisinae.

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Acknowledgments

Thanks to Drs. Frank Schroeder and Jerrold Meinwald for invaluable support and advice. The Suzio-York Hill Co., Meriden, Connecticut kindly granted access to its quarry for ant collection. The Oxford Tobacco Station (North Carolina State University) generously supplied seed. Taxonomic expertise was provided by the Systematic Entomology Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture: Drs. Gregory Evans (Bemisia) and Natalia Vandenberg (Delphastus). Dr. Vandenberg further shared useful insights on coccinellid phylogeny. We thank Vinnie Salvador, Jenny Nord, and Susan St. Jean for technical help. A National Institutes of Health grant (GM079571), the Trinity College Faculty Research Committee, and funding from Trinity College’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant supported this research.

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Deyrup, S.T., Eckman, L.E., Lucadamo, E.E. et al. Antipredator activity and endogenous biosynthesis of defensive secretion in larval and pupal Delphastus catalinae (Horn) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). Chemoecology 24, 145–157 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00049-014-0156-3

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