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J Chem Ecol. 2007 Mar;33(3):525-39.

Electrophysiological and behavioral activity of secondary metabolites in the confused flour beetle, Tribolium confusum.

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Department of Ecology, Lund University, Ecology building, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden.


Several previous studies have addressed pheromone communication in various flour beetles (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae), including the confused flour beetle, Tribolium confusum (du Val). Different stereoisomers of 4,8-dimethyldecanal (DMD) were reported as the only components of an aggregation pheromone, but the behavioral activity of DMD is low. In the present study, additional previously reported secondary metabolites (benzoquinones and hydrocarbons) were tested for electrophysiological activity (EAG) with both sexes of T. confusum. Two benzoquinones and three monoenic hydrocarbons elicited significant EAG activity from both male and female antennae. There was an elevated male EAG response (vs. the females) to two out of the three hydrocarbons and for both quinones. The EAG-active compounds were subsequently investigated for behavioral activity in a walking bioassay. Benzoquinones are considered toxic and have been assigned a function as alarm substances in flour beetles, but we found that methyl-1, 4-benzoquinone in intermediate concentrations was attractive to both male and female beetles and could therefore act as an aggregation pheromone component. Males were also attracted to ethyl-1,4-benzoquinone. The corresponding hydroquinones, presumed precursors of the benzoquinones, did not elicit any electrophysiological response and were not tested for behavioral activity. The unsaturated hydrocarbons (1-tetradecene, 1-pentadecene, and 1-hexadecene) elicited significant EAG responses from both male and female antennae and were also attractive in the behavioral assay. Our results show that several beetle-produced compounds, in addition to 4,8-dimethyldecanal, may be part of a complex pheromone system in flour beetles and play a role in mediating aggregation in T. confusum.

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