Research Highlights: Pathogenic Fungus On Infected Dead Female Flies Fools Male Flies To Mate


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E. muscae colonizing Scathophaga stercoraria. © Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6665971

Pathogenic Fungus On Infected Dead Female Flies Fools Male Flies To Mate

November 5, 2021

  • The recognition species concept is an idea that a species is characterized by a unique fertilization system that restricts gene-flow with other species.[3]
  • When males and females meet, mating competition and mating preferences may lead to low-quality decisions during mating.
  • Certain flowers exploit the willingness of an insect to mate by using sexual imitation to attract pollinator insects.
  • Some obligate pathogens can increase their chance for transmission when their host mate with the opposite conspecific member.
  • Also, many parasites and pathogens control the behavior of their host to ensure dispersal.
  • However, it is not normal for pathogens to rely on both behavioral manipulation and sexual imitation.
  • Researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences show that the fungus, Entomophthora muscae, produces a chemical compound that alters the cuticular hydrocarbons of dead infected female house fly.[4]
  • E. muscae is a pathogenic fungus that causes disease in adult flies and has been identified as a potential biological agent for many years.
  • Cuticular hydrocarbons are primarily a moisture-saving agent present on the surface of an insect and are thought to play a role in insect communication.[2]
  • When the fungus alters the cuticular hydrocarbons of the dead female house fly, the male house flies respond to the compound produced by the fungi and are attracted into mating with the dead female.
  • This allows a higher probability of the fungus to infect the male flies due to its close proximity.
  • The research highlights the evolution of an extended phenotypic trait that exploit male flies’ tendency to mate and benefit the fungus by changing the behavior of uninfected male house flies.

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Sources:

Naundrup, A., Bohman, B., Kwadha, C., Jensen, A., Becher, P., De Fine Licht, H. (2021). A pathogenic fungus uses volatiles to entice male flies into fatal matings with infected female cadavers. bioRxiv. 0.1101/2021.10.21.465334. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.10.21.465334v1

[2] Drijfhout, Falko & Kather, R. & Martin, Stephen. (2013). The role of cuticular hydrocarbons in insects. Behavioral and Chemical Ecology. 91-114. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286303349_The_role_of_cuticular_hydrocarbons_in_insects

[3] https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100408187

[4] https://biocontrol.entomology.cornell.edu/pathogens/entomophagamuscae.php

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