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Environmental decomposition of olefinic cuticular hydrocarbons of Periplaneta americana generates a volatile pheromone that guides social behaviour

Citation

Hatano, Eduardo; Wada-Katsumata, Ayako; Schal, Coby (2020), Environmental decomposition of olefinic cuticular hydrocarbons of Periplaneta americana generates a volatile pheromone that guides social behaviour, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.n8pk0p2r3

Abstract

Once emitted, semiochemicals are exposed to reactive environmental factors that may alter them, thus disrupting chemical communication. Some species, however, might have adapted to detect environmentally mediated breakdown products of their natural chemicals as semiochemicals. We demonstrate that air, water vapour and ultraviolet (UV) radiation break down unsaturated cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) of Periplaneta americana (American cockroach), resulting in the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In behavioural assays, nymphs strongly avoided aggregating in shelters exposed to the breakdown VOCs from cuticular alkenes. The three treatments (air, water
vapour, UV) produced the same VOCs, but at different time-courses and ratios. Fourteen VOCs from UV-exposed CHCs elicited electrophysiological responses in nymph antennae; 10 were identified as 2-nonanone, 1-pentanol, 1-octanol, 1-nonanol, tetradecanal, acetic acid, propanoic acid, butanoic acid, pentanoic acid and hexanoic acid. When short-chain fatty acids were tested as a mix and a blend of the alcohols and aldehyde was tested as a second mix, nymphs exhibited no preference for control or treated shelters. However, nymphs avoided shelters that were exposed to VOCs from the complete 10-compound mix. Conditioned shelters (occupied by cockroaches with faeces and CHCs deposited on the shelters), which are normally highly attractive to nymphs, were also avoided after UV exposure, confirming that breakdown products from deposited metabolites, including CHCs,mediate this behaviour. Our results demonstrate that common environmental agents degrade CHCs into behaviourally active volatile compounds that potentially may serve as necromones or epideictic pheromones, mediating group dissolution.

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Funding

Blanton J. Whitmire Endowment at North Carolina State University

National Science Foundation, Award: IOS-1557864