Dr. Jan Buellesbach (Berkeley University of California)
in: 'Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution': "Traversing taxonomic boundaries with cuticular hydrocarbons: Finding common elements in diverse insect communication systems"
by Dr. Jan Buellesbach
As the earliest and most wide-spread form of communication, chemical signaling has permeated through all known taxa of life. Insects, in particular, have exploited chemical signaling as their primary mode of communication. Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHC), the dominant fraction of the insects’ epicuticle, form the basis for a wide array of different chemical signaling systems while primarily functioning as desiccation barrier. To obtain a holistic view on CHC communication, I am attempting to integrate chemical, behavioral and genetic studies for investigating CHC profiles in different representative Hymenopteran taxa where CHC appear to be the main cues for a wide variety of functions ranging from sex pheromones to nestmate recognition. Intriguing structural similarities in the main signal-bearing CHC compounds begin to surface despite the high level of diversity in encoded information, strongly suggesting that general CHC signaling mechanisms are evolutionary conserved traversing vast phylogenetic boundaries, which might in turn hint at a unified “chemical language”.