- Exocrine glands in Erotylidae (Coleoptera, Cucujoidea): chemical ecology, morphology and evolution (2010)
- In most insect orders chemical defence is highly important and a multiplicity of partly spectacular defence mechanisms were described in the last years. It is well known that members of the Erotylidae show a particularly rich equipment of exocrine compound glands. However, morphology and ultrastructure as well as the chemistry of the secretions of these compound glands remain unexplored so far. The cosmopolitan Erotylidae is assigned to the superfamily Cucujoidea (Clavicornia) of the Coleoptera-Cucujiformia and comprises about 3500 described species in 258 genera. Today the family includes both the phytophagous species of the former Languriidae and the mycophagous species of the former Erotylidae s. str. (now ranked as the subfamily Erotylinae). The adult beetles, as well as their larvae, are bounded to different bracket fungi or live under the bark. Most species are striking in appearance, frequently in combination with conspicuous patters of stripes, spots or rings. The present contribution deals with species of this coleopteran family and concerns altogether five different subject areas: (1) Morphological details of the internal structure and ultrastructure of the compound glands were examined in exemplar species of the family (Tritoma bipustulata, Triplax scutellaris) for the first time (SEM, TEM). Each compound gland consists of a central excretory duct and numerous identical gland units. These gland units are composed of two different cells, whereof one forms a cuticular ductule. Thus the glands belong to class III as defined by Noirot and Quennedey (1974, 1991). Furthermore, the glands offered two structural features (lateral appendix, the spongious wall of the ductus), which were previously not known from compound glands of beetles. (2) Hitherto hardly known was the ability of reflex bleeding in these species. The phenomenon is reported, for instance, from the closely related families Coccinellidae and Endomychidae. However, the hemolymph is not, like in the mentioned taxa, released from the joints of the leg, but from the abdominal tip. The chemistry of the reflex blood as well as the discharged secretion of the pronotal glands was examined by GC-MS for the first time. Biological effects of the identified compounds of both secretions were evaluated in bioassays and agar diffusion tests. (3) Furthermore, a study on the role of emitted fungal volatile compounds in recognition of the hostfungus by mycophagous beetles was conducted (GC-EAD, EAG). Beside the two erotylid-species (Tritoma bipustulata and Dacne bipustulata), mycophagous species of the families Tenebrionidae and Ciidae were included in this study. The scents of young as well as aged fungi were tested. The results imply that the species are able to discriminate between fungi of different ages as well as the degree of colonization. (4) Due to the multiplicity of different exocrine compound glands in Erotylidae (within the angles, as well as along the lateral margin of the pronotum, on the prosternal and mesoventral intercoxal processes, anteromesal to the compound eyes, on the subgenal braces, and rarely on the mentum), a comparative analysis on the occurrence of compound glands was carried out. 47 species were included in this analysis. The results were mapped on an existing phylogeny of the family and other phylogenetic hypotheses were discussed. Several glandular characters support the monophyly of the Erotylidae, Erotylinae as well as some tribes of the latter subfamily. Also the postulated position of Languria bicolor (Languriinae) within the Erotylinae is confirmed by glandular characters. (5) Finally, it was possible to identify Brachyserphus parvulus (Proctotrupidae) as a parasitoid of T. bipustulata. Members of this group of Hymenoptera are endoparasites in larvae of numerous families of the Coleoptera, Diptera and Lepidoptera. B. parvulus was hitherto known from species of Nitidulidae, Melandryidae, Phalacridae as well as the erotylid genus Triplax.