Olfactory and behavioural responses of tsetse flies, glossina spp., to rumen metabolites

Vincent Harraca, Z. Syed, P. M. Guerin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Herbivores provide tsetse flies with a blood meal, and both wild and domesticated ruminants dominate as hosts. As volatile metabolites from the rumen are regularly eructed with rumen gas, these products could serve tsetse flies during host searching. To test this, we first established that the odour of rumen fluid is attractive to hungry Glossinapallidipes in a wind tunnel. We then made antennogram recordings from three tsetse species (G. pallidipes morsitans group, G. fuscipes palpalis group and G. brevipalpis fusca group) coupled to gas chromatographic analysis of rumen fluid odour and of its acidic, mildly acidic and neutral fractions. This shows tsetse flies can detect terpenes, ketones, carboxylic acids, aliphatic aldehydes, sulphides, phenols and indoles from this biological substrate. A mixture of carboxylic acids at a ratio similar to that present in rumen fluid induced behavioural responses from G. pallidipes in the wind tunnel that were moderately better than the solvent control. The similarities in the sensory responses of the tsetse fly species to metabolites from ruminants demonstrated in this study testify to a contribution of habitat exploitation by these vertebrates in the Africa-wide distribution of tsetse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-824
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This research was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant no. 3100AO-112425/1). We thank the International Atomic Energy Agency (Seibersdorf Laboratories, Austria) for supplying us with tsetse Xies and Dr István Ujváry (Institute of Chemistry, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary) for furnishing the polyethylene sachets Wlled with 1-octen-3-ol and the phenol tsetse Xy attractants. We also thank the slaughterhouse of La Chaux-de-Fonds (CH) for providing access to bovine blood and rumen Xuid. The authors are grateful to Dr. G. Donzé for his advice regarding the chemical fractionation. This paper contains chapters of the PhD theses submitted by Z. Syed and V. Harraca at the University of Neuchâtel.


  • Behaviour
  • Olfaction
  • Rumen metabolites
  • Sensory physiology
  • Tsetse flies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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