Pheromones and kairomones in the sexual communication of parasitic wasps
For successful reproduction, parasitoids have to be able to locate their mates and hosts. In several species chemical orientation plays a decisive role in these essential behaviors. Our knowledge about chemical cues that are involved in the sexual communication of parasitic Hymenoptera is scarce when compared to other insect taxa. The taxon Pteromalidae is predestined to achieve progress because many species can be reared on economically relevant insect pests and thus, can be obtained in sufficient numbers for pheromone studies. We study three parasotoid-host systems: (1) parasitoids developing in pupae of flesh and blow flies with particular emphasis on the model organism Nasonia vitripennis and other species of this genus; (2) parasitoids developing in stored product infesting beetles including Lariophagus distinguendus and Anisopteromalus calandrae; (3) parasitoids of Drosophila including the genus Leptopilina and Asobara. We are interested in all aspects of chemical communication in parasitic wasps including the identification, behavioral function, biosynthesis and evolution of sex pheromones and other chemical stimuli. Often more than one pheromone is involve. Volatile compounds mediate attraction of a sexual mate from a distance whereas less volatile contact pheromones are involved during courtship to enable mate recognition and the elicitation of sexual receptivity.
Selected publications on Nasonia (for a full publication list click here)
Niehuis, O.*, Buellesbach, J.*, Gibson, J.D.*, Pothmann, D., Hanner, C., Mutti, N.S., Judson, A., Gadau, J., Ruther, J.* & Schmitt, T. (2013) Behavioural and genetic analyses of Nasonia shed light on the evolution of sex pheromones. Nature 494 (doi: 10.1038/nature11838)
*These authors contributed equally to this research.
Blaul, B. & Ruther, J. (2011) How parasitoid females produce sexy sons: a causal link between oviposition preference, dietary lipids, and mate choice in Nasonia. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278: 3286-3293.
Ruther, J., Thal, K., Blaul, B. & Steiner, S. (2010) Behavioural switch in the sex pheromone response of Nasonia vitripennis females is linked to receptivity signalling. Animal Behaviour 80: 1035-1040.
Ruther, J., Matschke, M., Garbe, L.-A. & Steiner, S. (2009) Quantity matters: male sex pheromone signals mate quality in the parasitic wasp Nasonia vitripennis. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276: 3303-3310.
Abdel-latief, M., Garbe, L.-A., Koch, M. & Ruther, J. (2008) An epoxide hydrolase involved in the biosynthesis of an insect sex attractant and its use to localize the production site. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 105: 8914-8919.
Ruther, J., Stahl, L.M., Steiner, S., Garbe, L.A. & Tolasch, T. (2007) A male sex pheromone in a parasitic wasp and control of the behavioral response by the female's mating status. Journal of Experimental Biology 210: 2163-2169.
Selected publications on Lariophagus
Kühbandner, S., Sperling, S., Mori, K. & Ruther, J. (2012) Deciphering the signature of cuticular lipids with contact sex pheromone function in a parasitic wasp. Journal of Experimental Biology 215: 2471-2478.
Kühbandner, S., Hacker, K., Niedermayer, S., Steidle, J.L.M. & Ruther, J. (2012) Composition of cuticular lipids in the pteromalid wasp Lariophagus distinguendus is host dependent. Bulletin of Entomological Research 102: 610-617.
Ruther, J. & Steiner, S. (2008) Costs of female odor in males of the parasitic wasp Lariophagus distinguendus (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae). Naturwissenschaften 95: 547-552.
Steiner, S., Steidle, J.L.M. & Ruther, J. (2005) Female sex pheromone in immature insect males - a case of pre-emergence chemical mimicry? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 58: 111-120.