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Data from: Context-dependent alarm signalling in an insect


de Bruijn, Paulien J. A.; Egas, Martijn; Sabelis, Maurice W.; Groot, Astrid T. (2015), Data from: Context-dependent alarm signalling in an insect, Dryad, Dataset,


Animals often respond to danger by raising alarm to inform others. Alarm signals come in many different forms, such as visual or mechanical display, sound or odour. Some animals produce vocal alarm signals that vary with the level of danger. For chemical alarm signals, virtually nothing is known about such context-dependent signalling due to a general notion that alarm pheromones have fixed compositions. Here, we show that larvae of the Western Flower Thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) produce an alarm pheromone whose composition varies with the level of danger they face: the presence of a relatively harmless predator or a very dangerous predator, that is either actually attacking or not. The frequency of alarm pheromone excretion increases with the level of danger. Moreover, the composition of excreted alarm pheromone varies in the relationship between total and relative amount of the putative two components, decyl acetate (DAc) and dodecyl acetate (DDAc). When pheromone is excreted with a predator present but not attacking, the percentage DDAc increases with the total amount of pheromone. When a predator does attack, however, the relationship between percentage DDAc and total amount of pheromone is reversed. Taken together, the alarm signal of thrips larvae appears to be context dependent, which to our knowledge is the first report of context-dependent composition of an alarm pheromone.

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