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J Chem Ecol. 2011 Jul;37(7):724-35. doi: 10.1007/s10886-011-9978-4. Epub 2011 Jun 11.

Secondary metabolites released by the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides: chemical analyses and possible ecological functions.

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Institute of Phytopathology and Applied Zoology, Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen, Giessen, Germany.


Burying beetles of the genus Nicrophorus localize small vertebrate carcasses by emitted volatiles. The carcass that serves as reproduction and breeding site is buried in the soil by the beetles. Biparental care for offspring includes both preservation of the carrion and its preparation as diet and nursery. Buried carcasses show no signs of microbial decay, and those experimentally treated with Nicrophorus secretions are known to grow fewer bacteria and fungi. In order to investigate the chemical composition of these secretions, we used GC-MS for analysis of methanolic extracts of anal and oral secretions released by adult N. vespilloides. Furthermore, we analyzed the headspace of adult N. vespilloides by SPME-GC-MS and searched for compounds with known antimicrobial activity. We identified 34 compounds in the headspace, and anal and oral secretions, 26 of which occurred consistently. We discuss the ecological relevance of these compounds with respect to both their antimicrobial activity and ecological relevance.

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