Stored perfume dynamics and consequences for signal development in male orchid bees
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Male orchid bees (Euglossini) collect volatiles from their environment to concoct species-specific “perfumes”, which are later emitted at mating sites. Intensity, complexity or composition of perfumes may encode age (survival) of a male, but how the individual perfume develops over time needs to be clarified. We investigated chemical changes during storage in leg pockets. We injected a mixture of eight perfume compounds into pockets of Euglossa imperialis and only the two most volatile compounds decreased over 12 days. Using a different approach we found significant shifts in quantities of naturally occurring perfume compounds of Euglossa championi over 10 days, with the strongest decreases (up to 70% peak area) in highly volatile minor compounds, e.g. monoterpenes, and noteworthy increases (up to 40%) in some sesquiterpenoids. Corresponding shifts were observed in legs of dried bees, suggesting that no metabolic activity is required for the observed changes to occur. Our results confirm that male orchid bees are generally good at preserving collected perfumes. However, subtle shifts towards heavier compounds in blends may occur over the lifetime of individual bees, e.g. due to evaporation or in-pocket chemical reaction, with old males acquiring a more pronounced base note in their seasoned perfumes.
KeywordsEuglossini Fragrance Chemical communication Pheromone analogue Scent
We wish to thank Werner Huber and the entire staff of the La Gamba Tropical Station for continued support. Wittko Francke provided helpful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. Supported by the German Science Foundation (El 249/11), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Ruhr-University Bochum. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. Research and export permits were granted by MINAE and SINAC, Costa Rica.
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