The chemical basis of mate recognition in two parasitoid wasp species of the genus Nasonia

Magdalena M. Mair, Violeta Kmezic, Stephanie Huber, Bart A. Pannebakker, Joachim Ruther*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


To recognize one's mate is essential for all sexually reproducing animals. In insects, mate recognition is often based on chemical cues such as hydrocarbons which are distributed over the insect's cuticle. In the parasitoid wasp genus Nasonia (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae), interspecific mating possibly occurs in microsympatry between Nasonia vitripennis Walker and Nasonia giraulti Darling despite post-zygotic isolation mechanisms preventing hybridization. Males of N. vitripennis are known to equally court con- and heterospecific females, which they recognize by means of cuticular hydrocarbons. A recent study surprisingly showed that this might not be the case in N. giraulti, leaving open how males of this species achieve the recognition of mating partners. In this study, we investigated chemical mate recognition in N. giraulti in more detail and compared observed behaviors with behaviors of N. vitripennis by conducting experiments with both species concurrently and under the same experimental conditions. We disentangled the role of female-derived non-polar cuticular lipids – i.e., cuticular hydrocarbons – and more polar cuticular lipids in the ability of males to recognize con- and heterospecific females. In addition, we tested whether females of the two species discriminate similarly between con- and heterospecific males. We demonstrate that, in contrast to N. vitripennis, males of N. giraulti prefer live conspecific females over heterospecific ones. Furthermore, in contrast to N. vitripennis, mate recognition in N. giraulti males is not based on cuticular hydrocarbons, but rather involves other chemical messengers, presumably more polar cuticular lipids. In both species, discrimination against heterospecific males decreases with female age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • chemical communication
  • cuticular hydrocarbons
  • Hymenoptera
  • parasitic wasp
  • pheromone
  • Pteromalidae
  • reproductive isolation
  • species discrimination


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