Comparative GC-EAD responses of a specialist (Microplitis croceipes) and a generalist (Cotesia marginiventris) parasitoid to cotton volatiles induced by two caterpillar species

Esther Ngumbi, Li Chen, Henry Yemisi Fadamiro
Journal of Chemical Ecology 2009, 35 (9): 1009-20
Plants emit volatile blends that may be quantitatively and/or qualitatively different in response to attack by different herbivores. These differences may convey herbivore-specific information to parasitoids, and are predicted to play a role in mediating host specificity in specialist parasitoids. Here, we tested the above prediction by using as models two parasitoids (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) of cotton caterpillars with different degree of host specificity: Microplitis croceipes, a specialist parasitoid of Heliothis spp., and Cotesia marginiventris, a generalist parasitoid of caterpillars of several genera including Heliothis spp. and Spodoptera spp. We compared GC-EAD (coupled gas chromatography electroantennogram detection) responses of both parasitoid species to headspace volatiles of cotton plants damaged by H. virescens (a host species for both parasitoids) vs. S. exigua (a host species for C. marginiventris). Based on a recent study in which we reported differences in the EAG responses of both parasitoids to different types of host related volatiles, we hypothesized that M. croceipes (specialist) would show relatively greater GC-EAD responses to the herbivore-induced plant volatile (HIPV) components of cotton headspace, whereas C. marginiventris (generalist) would show greater response to the green leaf volatile (GLV) components. Thirty volatile components were emitted by cotton plants in response to feeding by either of the two caterpillars, however, 18 components were significantly elevated in the headspace of H. virescens damaged plants. Sixteen consistently elicited GC-EAD responses in both parasitoids. As predicted, C. marginiventris showed significantly greater GC-EAD responses than M. croceipes to most GLV components, whereas several HIPV components elicited comparatively greater responses in M. croceipes. These results suggest that differences in the ratios of identical volatile compounds between similar volatile blends may be used by specialist parasitoids to discriminate between host-plant and non-host-plant complexes.

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