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Genetics. 1996 Oct;144(2):757-66.

Genetic variation in the strongly canalized sex pheromone communication system of the European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis Hübner (Lepidoptera; Pyralidae).

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  • 1Department of Ecology, Lund University, Sweden.


The major difference in pheromone production between the so-called E and Z strains of the European corn borer Ostrinia nubilalis is controlled by two alleles at a single autosomal locus. E-strain females produce an (E)-11-tetradecenyl acetate pheromone with 1-3% of the Z isomer, whereas Z-strain females produce the opposite blend. In laboratory-reared insects we found that F1 females produced, on average, a 71:29 E/Z ratio, but the distribution was clearly bimodal. The variability in pheromone blend produced by heterozygous females could be explained by the existence of two different alleles in the Z strain which in combination with the E-strain allele for the major production locus cause the production of a component mixture either high or low in the F isomer. In addition, evidence was found for an independently inherited factor, existing in the E strain, with a dominant effect on the amount of E isomer produced by females homozygous for Z-alleles at the major production locus. Thus, the low variability normally found in the pheromone mixture produced by O. nubilalis and other moth females may, by canalization, hide a considerable amount of underlying genetic variation.

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