The evolution of sexually dimorphic cuticular hydrocarbons in blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae)



Publication Details

Butterworth, N., Wallman, J., Drijfhout, F., Johnston, N., Keller, P. & Byrne, P. (2020). The evolution of sexually dimorphic cuticular hydrocarbons in blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae). Journal of Evolutionary Biology,


© 2020 European Society For Evolutionary Biology. Journal of Evolutionary Biology © 2020 European Society For Evolutionary Biology Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) are organic compounds found on the cuticles of all insects which can act as close-contact pheromones, while also providing a hydrophobic barrier to water loss. Given their widespread importance in sexual behaviour and survival, CHCs have likely contributed heavily to the adaptation and speciation of insects. Despite this, the patterns and mechanisms of their diversification have been studied in very few taxa. Here, we perform the first study of CHC diversification in blowflies, focussing on wild populations of the ecologically diverse genus Chrysomya. We convert CHC profiles into qualitative and quantitative traits and assess their inter- and intra-specific variation across 10 species. We also construct a global phylogeny of Chrysomya, onto which CHCs were mapped to explore the patterns of their diversification. For the first time, we demonstrate that blowflies express an exceptional diversity of CHCs, which have diversified in a nonphylogenetic and punctuated manner, are species-specific and sexually dimorphic. It is likely that both ecological and sexual selection have shaped these patterns of CHC diversification, and our study now provides a comprehensive framework for testing such hypotheses.

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