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PLOS ONE  2012 

Male-Specific Transfer and Fine Scale Spatial Differences of Newly Identified Cuticular Hydrocarbons and Triacylglycerides in a Drosophila Species Pair

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016898

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Abstract:

We analyzed epicuticular hydrocarbon variation in geographically isolated populations of D. mojavensis cultured on different rearing substrates and a sibling species, D. arizonae, with ultraviolet laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (UV-LDI MS). Different body parts, i.e. legs, proboscis, and abdomens, of both species showed qualitatively similar hydrocarbon profiles consisting mainly of long-chain monoenes, dienes, trienes, and tetraenes. However, D. arizonae had higher amounts of most hydrocarbons than D. mojavensis and females of both species exhibited greater hydrocarbon amounts than males. Hydrocarbon profiles of D. mojavensis populations were significantly influenced by sex and rearing substrates, and differed between body parts. Lab food–reared flies had lower amounts of most hydrocarbons than flies reared on fermenting cactus substrates. We discovered 48 male- and species-specific hydrocarbons ranging in size from C22 to C50 in the male anogenital region of both species, most not described before. These included several oxygen-containing hydrocarbons in addition to high intensity signals corresponding to putative triacylglycerides, amounts of which were influenced by larval rearing substrates. Some of these compounds were transferred to female cuticles in high amounts during copulation. This is the first study showing that triacylglycerides may be a separate class of courtship-related signaling molecules in drosophilids. This study also extends the kind and number of epicuticular hydrocarbons in these species and emphasizes the role of larval ecology in influencing amounts of these compounds, many of which mediate courtship success within and between species.

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