Chemical Defense in Harvestmen (Arachnida, Opiliones): Do Benzoquinone Secretions Deter Invertebrate and Vertebrate Predators?

Abstract

Two alkylated 1,4-benzoquinones were identified from the defensive secretion produced by the neotropical harvestman Goniosoma longipes (Gonyleptidae). They were characterized as 2,3-dimethyl-1,4-benzoquinone and 2-ethyl-3-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone. We tested the effectiveness of these benzoquinone secretions against several predator types, including invertebrates and vertebrates. Different predators were exposed to the harvestmen's gland secretion or to distilled water in laboratory bioassays. Our results indicate that secretions containing the 1,4-benzoquinones released by G. longipes can be an effective defense against predation, and that the effectiveness of the secretion is dependent on the predator type. The scent gland secretion repelled seven ant species, two species of large wandering spiders, and one frog species, but was not an effective defense against an opossum. Our study also demonstrates that the scent gland secretion of G. longipes can work as a chemical shield preventing the approach of three large predatory ants for at least 10 min. The chemical shield may protect the harvestman against successive attacks of the same ant worker and also allow the harvestman to flee before massive ant recruitment. Our data support the suggestion that chemical defenses may increase survival with some but not all potential predators. This variation in defense effectiveness may result from many interacting factors, including the attack strategy, size, learning ability, and physiology of the predators, as well as the chemical nature of the defensive compounds, type of emission, and amount of effluent released by the prey.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to our friends A.C. Pellegrino, B.A. Buzatto, E.G. Martins, F. Osses, G.B.T. Egito, G.S. Requena, J.M. Fanton, L.M. Rossetto, S. Koehler, and T.M. Del Corso for helping during this study, to B.A. Buzatto for the photos of the harvestman, to E.G. Martins, I. Sazima, and R.J. Sawaya for the photos of the predators, to the staff of the Clube Náutico Araraquara for logistical support, to A.J. Santos (spiders), R. Cogni (ants), and E.G. Martins (marsupials) for taxonomic identifications, and to B.A. Buzatto, G.S. Requena, I. Sazima, P. Gnaspini, D.W. Whitman, and an anonymous reviewer for comments on an early draft of the manuscript. This study was supported by fellowships from the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP, no. 02/00381-0 and no. 03/09357-7).

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Machado, G., Carrera, P.C., Pomini, A.M. et al. Chemical Defense in Harvestmen (Arachnida, Opiliones): Do Benzoquinone Secretions Deter Invertebrate and Vertebrate Predators?. J Chem Ecol 31, 2519–2539 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10886-005-7611-0

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Key Words

  • Allomone
  • antipredator defense
  • chemical defense
  • chemical shield
  • Formicidae
  • Philander
  • predation
  • Proceratophrys
  • 1,4-benzoquinones