Endocrine disruption of sexual selection by an estrogenic herbicide in the mealworm beetle (Tenebrio molitor)
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The role that endocrine disruption could play in sexual selection remains relatively untested, and although estrogens occur in insects, little information exists about their biological role in insect reproduction. Atrazine is a commonly applied herbicide that mimics estrogen in vertebrates. Tenebrio molitor were raised from egg to adult under a gradation of environmentally relevant atrazine exposures and a non-treated control. Atrazine was delivered in the drinking water ad libitum. Female T. molitor were provided with a choice between unrelated males raised under three levels of atrazine exposures. Female preference for males demonstrated a non-monotonic inverted U-shaped response to atrazine exposure. There was no significant difference between the control and the high exposure to atrazine. Excluding the control, female preference increased as exposure concentration increased. These results have important repercussions for nonlethal effects of endocrine disruption on populations, their capacity to interfere with sexual selection, and the role of estrogen in pheromone communication among insects.
KeywordsAtrazine Endocrine disruption Sexual selection Estrogen Non-monotonic response
We thank Ann Paterson for discussion of an early version of this manuscript and Beverly Burden for demonstrating how to sex pupae and beetles. Funding for this project was provided by Malcolm McCallum.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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