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Data from: Release from prey preservation behavior via prey switch allowed diversification of cuticular hydrocarbon profiles in digger wasps

Citation

Wurdack, Mareike et al. (2017), Data from: Release from prey preservation behavior via prey switch allowed diversification of cuticular hydrocarbon profiles in digger wasps, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.10gm6

Abstract

The cuticle of insects is covered by a layer of hydrocarbons (CHCs), whose original function is the protection from desiccation and pathogens. However, in most insects CHC profiles are species-specific. While this variability among species was largely linked to communication and recognition functions, additional selective forces may shape insect CHC profiles. Here we show that in Philanthinae digger wasps (Crabronidae) the CHC profile co-evolved with a peculiar brood-care strategy. In particular, we found that the behavior to embalm prey stored in the nest with hydrocarbons is adaptive to protect larval food from fungi in those species hunting for Hymenoptera. The prey embalming secretion is identical in composition to the alkene-dominated CHC profile in these species, suggesting that their profile is adaptively conserved for this purpose. In contrast, prey embalming is not required in those species which switched to Coleoptera as prey. Released from this chemical brood-care strategy, Coleoptera-hunting species considerably diversified their CHC profiles. Differential needs to successfully protect prey types used as larval food have thus driven the diversification of CHCs profiles of female Philanthinae wasps. To the best of our knowledge, this the first evidence of a direct link between selection pressure for food preservation and CHC diversity.

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Location

Alberese near Grosseto (Italy) (42°42'20.5"N 11°06'16.9"E)
Kaiserstuhl near Ihringen (Germany) (48°03'09.3"N 7°37'56.4"E)
Castiglione d’Adda near Lodi (Italy) (45°13'20.6"N 9°41'29.1"E)