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Data from: The smell of parents: breeding status influences cuticular hydrocarbon pattern in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides

Citation

Steiger, Sandra; Peschke, Klaus; Francke, Wittko; Müller, Josef K. (2014), Data from: The smell of parents: breeding status influences cuticular hydrocarbon pattern in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.b2q0g

Abstract

The waxy layer of the cuticle has been shown to play a fundamental role in recognition systems of insects. The biparental burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides is known to have the ability to discriminate between breeding and non-breeding conspecifics and also here cuticular substances could function as recognition cue. However, it has not yet been demonstrated that the pattern of cuticular lipids can reflect the breeding status of a beetle or of any other insect. With chemical analysis using coupled gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, we showed that the chemical signature of N. vespilloides males and females is highly complex and changes its feature with breeding status. Parental beetles were characterized by a higher amount of some unusual unsaturated hydrocarbons than beetles which are not caring for larvae. The striking correlation between cuticular profiles and breeding status suggests that cuticular hydrocarbons inform the beetles about parental state and thus enable them to discriminate between their breeding partner and a conspecific intruder. Furthermore, we found evidence that nutritional conditions also influence the cuticular profile and discuss the possibility that the diet provides the precursors for the unsaturated hydrocarbons observed in parental beetles. Our study underlines the fact that the cuticular pattern is rich of information and plays a central role in the burying beetles’ communication systems.

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