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Volatile emission by contest losers revealed by real-time chemical analysis



Tim P. Batchelor

Robert S.T. Linforth

Andrew J. Taylor

Ian C.W. Hardy


Animal interactions often involve chemical exchange but simultaneous evaluation of chemistry and behaviour has been problematical. Here we report findings from a novel method, atmospheric pressure chemical ionization-mass spectrometry (APCI-MS) coupled with manipulation of molecular-mass achieved by rearing organisms on deuterium-enhanced nutrients. This allows real-time monitoring of the occurrence and quantity of volatile chemicals released by each of two interacting individuals, in tandem with behavioural observations. We apply these methods to female–female contests in the parasitoid wasp Goniozus legneri. We show that this species emits the spiroacetal 2-methyl-1,7-dioxaspiro[5.5]undecane. Chemical release is most common in more behaviourally aggressive contests, which occur when prior resource owners successfully resist take-over by similar-sized intruder females. Volatiles released during contests are always emitted by the loser. Aggression in contests is reduced after spiroacetal release. We suggest that the spiroacetal functions as a weapon of rearguard action. We anticipate that APCI-MS, which is rapid, non-intrusive and relatively inexpensive to operate, will be widely applied in studies linking chemistry and behaviour.


Goubault, M., Batchelor, T. P., Linforth, R. S., Taylor, A. J., & Hardy, I. C. (2006). Volatile emission by contest losers revealed by real-time chemical analysis. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 273(1603), 2853-2859. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3655

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 14, 2006
Online Publication Date Aug 8, 2006
Publication Date Nov 22, 2006
Deposit Date Jun 5, 2019
Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Print ISSN 0962-8452
Electronic ISSN 1471-2954
Publisher Royal Society, The
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 273
Issue 1603
Pages 2853-2859
Keywords Contest behaviour; Chemical manipulation; Real-time mass spectrometry; Spiroacetal; Loser emission
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