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Pre-copulatory isolation in sympatric Melolontha species (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae)

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1 The two most abundant cockchafer species in Europe, the forest cockchafer Melolontha hippocastani Fabr. and the European cockchafer Melolontha melolontha L., tend to form calamitous mass breedings with casual reports on sympatric and simultaneous occurrence.

2 Both species are known to use feeding-induced green leaf volatiles (GLV) as primary attractants (sexual kairomones) for mate finding. The attractiveness of GLV is enhanced by the sex pheromones 1,4-benzoquinone in M. hippocastani and toluquinone in M. melolontha. Phenol attracts males from both species. All three compounds are present in females of both species.

3 In the present study, it is confirmed that only male M. melolontha perform the typical swarming flight at dusk, as has already been shown for M. hippocastani. Furthermore, whether swarming Melolontha males were cross-attracted to heterospecific females, and whether males could discriminate olfactorily between conspecific and heterospecific females, was tested in the field.

4 Males of both species preferred females when given the choice between females and males of the other species. However, they preferred conspecific females when females from both species were offered simultaneously.

5 The results suggest that species-specific pheromone blends contribute to precopulatory reproductive isolation in sympatric populations of M. melolontha and M. hippocastani, but are not mutually exclusive or indispensable prerequisites for mate finding as in other insects.

Keywords: Mate finding; Melolontha; Scarabaeidae; olfactory contrast; reproductive isolation; sex pheromone; sexual kairomone

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute of Biology, Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin, Haderslebener Str. 9, D-12163 Berlin, Germany

Publication date: November 1, 2006


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