Physiological and molecular correlates of the screwworm fly attraction to wound and animal odors

Paul V. Hickner, Omprakash Mittapalli, Anjana Subramoniam, Agustin Sagel, Wes Watson, Maxwell J. Scott, Alex P. Arp, Adalberto A.Pérez de León, Zainulabeuddin Syed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The screwworm fly, Cochliomyia hominivorax (Coquerel), was successfully eradicated from the United States by the sterile insect technique (SIT). However, recent detection of these flies in the Florida Keys, and increased risk of introductions to the other areas warrant novel tools for management of the flies. Surveillance, a key component of screwworm control programs, utilizes traps baited with rotting liver or a blend of synthetic chemicals such as swormlure-4. In this work, we evaluated the olfactory physiology of the screwworm fly and compared it with the non-obligate ectoparasitic secondary screwworm flies, C. macellaria, that invade necrotic wound and feed on dead tissue. These two species occur in geographically overlapping regions. C. macellaria, along with other blowflies such as the exotic C. megacephala, greatly outnumber C. hominivorax in the existing monitoring traps. Olfactory responses to swormlure-4 constituents between sex and mating status (mated vs unmated) in both species were recorded and compared. Overall, responses measured by the antennograms offered insights into the comparative olfactory physiology of the two fly species. We also present detailed analyses of the antennal transcriptome by RNA-Sequencing that reveal significant differences between male and female screwworm flies. The differential expression patterns were confirmed by quantitative PCR. Taken together, this integrated study provides insights into the physiological and molecular correlates of the screwworm’s attraction to wounds, and identifies molecular targets that will aid in the development of odorant-based fly management strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20771
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020

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© 2020, The Author(s).

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