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Zoolog Sci. 2015 Apr;32(2):183-7. doi: 10.2108/zs140203.

Environmental Factors Affecting Pupation Decision in the Horned Flour Beetle Gnatocerus cornutus.

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1 Department of Life Sciences, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo 153-8902, Japan.


Social environments often affect the development of organisms. In Tenebrionidae beetles, larval development can be arrested at the final instar stage in the presence of conspecific larvae. This developmental plasticity is considered to be an anti-cannibalistic strategy but the critical environmental determinants and actual effects remain to be elucidated. In this study, we examined the effects of the heterospecific environment, conspecific sexual environment (i.e., presence of conspecific male or female), and abiotic physical stimulation on the pupation decision of the sexually dimorphic horned-flour beetle Gnatocerus cornutus. Additionally, actual anti-cannibalistic or antipredatory effects of developmental arrest were evaluated by analyzing stage-dependent vulnerabilities. When G. cornutus larvae were maintained with a G. cornutus larva, a G. cornutus adult, or T. castaneum adult, the developmental period up to the prepupal stage was significantly elongated, suggesting that the cue is not species-specific. Sexual environment did not affect the timing of pupation in G. cornutus; however, we found that abiotic tactile stimulations by glass beads could repress pupation. We also discovered that prepupal and pupal stages were more vulnerable to cannibalism and predation than the larval stage. These data suggest that G. cornutus larvae use non-species specific tactile stimulation as a decision cue for pupation and it has broader defensive effects against heterospecific predation as well as conspecific cannibalism.


anti-predation; flour beetle; metamorphosis; phenotypic plasticity; pupation inhibition

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