Evidence for caste differences in anal droplet alarm pheromone production and responses in the eusocial thrips Kladothrips intermedius

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Abstract

Thrips (Thysanoptera) are tiny insects that produce anal secretions when
threatened. Several studies have shown that, depending on the species,
the droplets may contain alarm pheromones and/or repellents against
enemies. In the eusocial gall-inducing thrips Kladothrips intermedius both
larvae and adults produce such droplets. There are two castes of adults in
this species, soldiers (the sub-fertile and gall-bound defenders) and dispersers
(winged and capable of initiating a gall). We tested the proclivity
of secreting anal droplets by the two castes and whether the anal droplets
induce different behavioural responses in relation to the emitter–receiver’s
caste in a contact chemoreception bioassay. Although secretion
patterns were similar between castes, exposure to anal droplets emitted by
different castes elicited different behavioural responses in adults in the
bioassay. When exposed to soldiers’ anal droplets, dispersers significantly
reduced the distance moved while soldiers significantly increased the
distance moved, compared to when they were exposed to hexane control.
In contrast, no differences in the distance moved were observed for any
caste when exposed to dispersers’ anal droplets versus hexane control.
Increased activity in soldiers when exposed to their own anal droplets is a
predicted response to enhance the overall defence of the gall when under
threat, whereas dispersers should slow down their activity when exposed
to such ‘warning signal’. Thus, the behavioural data indicate that the anal
droplets emitted by soldiers are likely to contain an alarm pheromone.

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  • Biological Sciences
  • Zoology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1118-1125
JournalEthology
Volume119
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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