Major Transitions in Cuticular Hydrocarbon Expression Coincide with Sexual Maturity in a Blowfly (Diptera: Calliphoridae)
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. In many animals, there is a prolonged pre-reproductive period prior to sexual maturity. To avoid premature mating attempts, it is common for phenotypic changes to occur during this period that signal the onset of reproductive viability. Among the insects, pre-reproductive phases can last for up to 50% of the adult lifespan, but little is known about the accompanying phenotypic changes that signal sexual maturity. Contact pheromones such as cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) may fulfil this role, as they are known to change rapidly with age in many insects. Despite this, few studies have investigated CHC development in the context of sexual maturity or considered differences in CHC development between sexes. The blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) provide an ideal system for such studies because CHCs are known to change rapidly with age and likely play an important role in sexual behaviour. As such, using the small hairy maggot blowfly Chrysomya varipes, we investigate whether there are age- and sex-specific changes in CHCs over the course of adult blowfly maturation. We show that: (1) major qualitative transitions in CHC expression coincide with the onset of sexual maturity and (2) these changes occur more slowly in females – in line with their extended pre-reproductive phase. We suggest that CHCs may play an important role in signalling sexual maturity in the small hairy maggot blowfly and that this species will likely serve as a useful model for understanding the complex ontogeny of cuticular hydrocarbons in insects.