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Biol Trace Elem Res. 2013 Jul;154(1):81-7. doi: 10.1007/s12011-013-9700-1. Epub 2013 May 23.

Elemental concentration in mealworm beetle (Tenebrio molitor L.) during metamorphosis.

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  • 1Department of Ecology, University of Debrecen, Debrecen, P.O. Box 71, 4010, Hungary.


Mealworm beetles have been used in numerous experiments as bioindicators. The aim of our experiment was to study the elemental composition in three larvae, pupae and first and second generation adult stages during their life cycle. We selected 180 larvae from a genetically similar population and put them in three groups, in two boxes (60 larvae in each box). Larvae were fed with mashed potato made of the same quality and quantity of potato powder. Then, we selected 10 individuals from each stage to the elemental analysis, using the ICP-OES method. The following elements were analysed in the studied stages: Ca, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, P, S, Sr and Zn. The results of principal component analysis demonstrated that based on elemental composition, different stages were separated with each other, but in the cases of the three larvae stages, high overlap was found. The results of the GLM ANOVA showed significant differences between the different stages of metamorphosis-based elemental composition. Our results show that the calcium and magnesium were found in a relatively high concentration, while the iron and zinc may be essential elements during the metamorphosis. Our results also show that in insect, the concentration of sodium was higher than in the pupa which may cause by hemolymph. We also demonstrated that the metamorphosis has an effect on the concentration of elements. Our study shows that in the different stages of insects, there are significant changes in the elemental composition of different stages of insects during their metamorphosis.

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