Species and sexual differences in behavioural responses of a specialist and generalist parasitoid species to host-related volatiles

E Ngumbi, H Fadamiro
Bulletin of Entomological Research 2012, 102 (6): 710-8
The relationship between the degree of specialization of parasitoids and their responses to host-related volatiles is an important and current evolutionary question. Specialist parasitoids which have evolved to attack fewer host species are predicted to be more responsive to host-related volatiles than generalists. We tested the above prediction by comparing behavioural responses of both sexes of two parasitoids (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) with different degrees of host specificity, Microplitis croceipes (Cresson) (specialist) and Cotesia marginiventris (generalist), to different suites of synthetic host-related volatile compounds. The compounds tested at two doses (1 and 100 μg) include two green leaf volatiles (GLVs: hexanal and (Z)-3-hexen-1-ol) and four herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs: (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate, linalool, (Z)-3-hexenyl butyrate and (E,E)-α-farnesene). Two hypotheses were tested: (i) M. croceipes (specialist) would show relatively greater behavioural responses to the HIPVs, whereas C. marginiventris (generalist) would show greater behavioural responses to the GLVs, and (ii) females of both species would show greater responses than conspecific males to the host-related volatiles. At the low dose (1 μg), females of the specialist showed significantly greater responses than females of the generalist to three of the tested HIPVs, (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate, linalool and (Z)-3-hexenyl butyrate. In contrast, females of the generalist showed relatively greater responses to the GLVs. The same trends were recorded at the high dose but fewer significant differences were detected. In general, similar results were recorded for males, with the exception of linalool (an HIPV) which elicited significantly greater response in the generalist than the specialist. Comparing the sexes, females of both species showed greater responses than conspecific males to most of the tested volatiles. The ecological significance of these findings is discussed.

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