Premating isolation is determined by larval rearing substrates in cactophilic Drosophila mojavensis. X. Age-specific dynamics of adult epicuticular hydrocarbon expression in response to different host plants

Authors

  • William J. Etges,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Fayetteville, Arkansas
    • Correspondence

      William J. Etges, Department of Biological Sciences, Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 1 University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701. Tel: (479) 575 6358; Fax: (479) 575 4010; E-mail: wetges@uark.edu

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  • Cassia C. de Oliveira

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Fayetteville, Arkansas
    Current affiliation:
    1. Math and Science Division, Lyon College, Batesville, Arkansas
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Abstract

Analysis of sexual selection and sexual isolation in Drosophila mojavensis and its relatives has revealed a pervasive role of rearing substrates on adult courtship behavior when flies were reared on fermenting cactus in preadult stages. Here, we assessed expression of contact pheromones comprised of epicuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) from eclosion to 28 days of age in adults from two populations reared on fermenting tissues of two host cacti over the entire life cycle. Flies were never exposed to laboratory food and showed significant reductions in average CHC amounts consistent with CHCs of wild-caught flies. Overall, total hydrocarbon amounts increased from eclosion to 14–18 days, well past age at sexual maturity, and then declined in older flies. Most flies did not survive past 4 weeks. Baja California and mainland populations showed significantly different age-specific CHC profiles where Baja adults showed far less age-specific changes in CHC expression. Adults from populations reared on the host cactus typically used in nature expressed more CHCs than on the alternate host. MANCOVA with age as the covariate for the first six CHC principal components showed extensive differences in CHC composition due to age, population, cactus, sex, and age × population, age × sex, and age × cactus interactions. Thus, understanding variation in CHC composition as adult D. mojavensis age requires information about population and host plant differences, with potential influences on patterns of mate choice, sexual selection, and sexual isolation, and ultimately how these pheromones are expressed in natural populations. Studies of drosophilid aging in the wild are badly needed.

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