Attraction of male beetles to grubs: Evidence for evolution of a sex pheromone from larval odor

K. F. Haynes, D. A. Potter, J. T. Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Females of the scarabaeid beetle Cyclocephala lurida produce a volatile sex pheromone which attracts conspecific males. Field experiments demonstrated that larvae of both sexes also emit volatile chemicals that stimulate similar responses in adult males, including attempts by the attracted males to mate with the nonreproductive immature stage. Significantly more adult males were caught in traps baited with conspecific male or female larvae or adult females than in blank control traps. Hexane extracts of both male and female grubs were at least as effective as live larvae in trapping male adults, demonstrating that the behavioral responses are mediated by volatile chemicals. Sensory and behavioral responses of males to sex pheromones emitted by adult females are part of the functional communication system. However, their response to grubs is not functional, because grubs are normally temporally and spatially inaccessible to mate-seeking males. In theory, the evolution of a communication system is problematic because it requires the development of a signal in one sex and the sensory and behavioral attributes to respond to that signal in the other sex. The ontogeny of sex pheromone communication in C. lurida suggests a partial solution to this evolutionary problem. We propose that this sex pheromone communication system is probably derived from noncommunicative volatile chemicals that are lost in adult males and retained by adult females.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1117-1124
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1992


  • Coleoptera
  • Cyclocephala lurida
  • Scarabaeidae
  • chemical communication
  • evolution of signals
  • sex pheromone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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