Interactions between predatory wasps and their antagonists reveal cuticular hydrocarbon evolution

Prof. Dr. Thomas Schmitt Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, University of Würzburg

All insects investigated so far exhibit a complex blend of hydrocarbons (CHC) on their cuticle. These CHC profiles are often species and sex specific and play a crucial role in intra- and interspecific communication, defence and hydro-regulation. Although CHC composition and function is studied intensively, our knowledge on the evolution of this ubiquitous trait is rather scarce. In order to understand the factors shaping these complex chemical profiles, we studied interaction networks of solitary wasps (Crabronidae, Vespidae, Chrysididae). In my talk I will focus on the use of hydrocarbons for prey preservation and chemical mimicry. I will show how the interaction between predatory wasps and their antagonists (parasites and microorganisms) impacts the composition of complex CHC profiles. Our research sheds light on the co-evolutionary processes selecting for ubiquitous chemical traits in Hymenoptera.