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J Exp Biol. 2007 Jun;210(Pt 12):2163-9.

A male sex pheromone in a parasitic wasp and control of the behavioral response by the female's mating status.

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Institut für Biologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Haderslebener Str. 9, D-12163 Berlin, Germany.


Male insects may increase their chance of successful reproduction by releasing pheromones that attract females or elicit sexual acceptance. In parasitic wasps, male pheromones have been suggested for a few species but no chemicals have been identified so far. Here we report the first identification of a male sex pheromone in parasitic Hymenoptera. In abdomens of male jewel wasps, Nasonia vitripennis Walker, we found a mixture of (4R,5R)- and (4R,5S)-5-hydroxy-4-decanolide (HDL), which was released intermittently and attracted virgin females, but no males, in an olfactometer bioassay. However, only a few minutes after copulation mated females avoided the male-derived pheromone. Neither preference nor avoidance was shown by mated females after 24 h and even after they had been allowed to oviposit for 6 days. Nasonia vitripennis females normally mate only once. Thus, their variable response to the sex attractant depending on the mating status makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Firstly, it increases the chance of virgins to be inseminated. Secondly, by terminating the response or even avoiding the male pheromone, mated females decrease the probability of encountering males and being disturbed by their courtship activities when searching for new oviposition sites.

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