Robert Twele

Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

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Publications (22)92.76 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Highlights ► Stingless bee recruitment involves species- and colony-specific scent marks. ► Specific scents allow private communication to avoid eavesdropping and competition. ► We tested whether specific scent mark recognition by foragers is innate or learnt. ► Foragers raised in the nests of foreign species are attracted by the foreign scent. ► Stingless bee recruitment includes pheromone signals and learnt signature mixtures.
    Animal Behaviour. 01/2013; 85(1):225–232.
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    ABSTRACT: Social parasitism is widespread in many groups of social living hymenopteran species and has also evolved in the genus Bombus. Cuckoo bumblebees (subgenus Psithyrus) are obligate brood parasites in nests of other bumblebee species. After nest usurpation and the killing of the host queen, the parasite female has to control worker reproduction in order to accomplish and maintain reproductive dominance and to ensure her reproductive success. The aim of our study was to examine whether the generalist parasitic bumblebee Bombus bohemicus monopolizes and prevents worker reproduction by physical or chemical means and to identify possible odor compounds involved therein. We performed bioassays with callow workers of the host Bombus terrestris and have shown that B. bohemicus females are able to suppress host worker ovarian development, when these host workers are under the direct influence of the parasite female. Furthermore, by chemical analyses, we have demonstrated that the parasite females adjust to the odor profiles of their host queens in order to maintain the level of fertility signaling inside the host colony although the host queen is absent. We also found that host workers change their odor profile after nest usurpation by the parasite female and consequently, we suggest that the host and parasite are caught up in a chemical arms race.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 01/2012; 66(3). · 2.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Stingless bees, like honeybees, live in highly organized, perennial colonies. Their eusocial way of life, which includes division of labor, implies that only a fraction of the workers leave the nest to forage for food. To ensure a sufficient food supply for all colony members, stingless bees have evolved different mechanisms to recruit workers to foraging or even to communicate the location of particular food sites. In some species, foragers deposit pheromone marks between food sources and their nest, which are used by recruited workers to locate the food. To date, pheromone compounds have only been described for 3 species. We have identified the trail pheromone of a further species by means of chemical and electrophysiological analyses and with bioassays testing natural gland extracts and synthetic compounds. The pheromone is a blend of wax type and terpene esters. The relative proportions of the single components showed significant differences in the pheromones of foragers form 3 different colonies. This is the first report on a trail pheromone comprised of esters of 2 different biogenetic origins proving variability of the system. Pheromone specificity may serve to avoid confusions between the trails deposited by foragers of different nests and, thus, to decrease competition at food sources.
    Chemical Senses 09/2010; 35(7):593-601. · 3.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Reproductive division of labor in advanced eusocial honey bees and stingless bees is based on the ability of totipotent female larvae to develop into either workers or queens. In nearly all species, caste is determined by larval nutrition. However, the mechanism that triggers queen development in Melipona bees is still unresolved. Several hypotheses have been proposed, ranging from the proximate (a genetic determination of caste development) to the ultimate (a model in which larvae have complete control over their own caste fate). Here, we showed that the addition of geraniol, the main compound in labial gland secretions of nurse workers, to the larval food significantly increases the number of larvae that develop into queens. Interestingly, the proportion of queens in treated brood exactly matched the value (25%) predicted by the two-locus, two-allele model of genetic queen determination, in which only females that are heterozygous at both loci are capable of developing into queens. We conclude that labial gland secretions, added to the food of some cells by nurse bees, trigger queen development, provided that the larvae are genetically predisposed towards this developmental pathway. In Melipona beecheii, geraniol acts as a primer pheromone representing the first caste determination substance identified to date.
    Journal of Chemical Ecology 06/2010; 36(6):565-9. · 2.46 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cuckoo bumblebees (subgenus Psithyrus) are social parasites in colonies of their host bumblebee species (Bombus). In spring, parasitic females awaken from hibernation and start searching for established host nests. Some Psithyrus species are specialized on one host species, whereas generalists parasitize several species. In previous investigations, nest-marking signals of the bumblebee hosts have been shown to play a role in host recognition and discrimination between host and nonhost. We performed behavioural experiments and comparative chemical analyses with the specialist Bombus (Psithyrus) vestalis and the generalist Bombus (Psithyrus) bohemicus to identify semiochemicals that the females use to recognize the common host, Bombus terrestris. In chemical analyses of footprint samples, we mainly identified nonpolar hydrocarbons and polar wax-type esters. Bioassays with nonpolar and polar fractions obtained by solid phase extraction indicate that specialized parasites use a complex bouquet of compounds for host recognition, whereas generalists need only selected substances common to the signals of all of their hosts. The evolutionary significance of the results is discussed.
    Animal Behaviour. 01/2010;
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    ABSTRACT: Approximately one-third of the world's estimated 30,000 orchid species are deceptive and do not reward their pollinators with nectar or pollen. Most of these deceptive orchids imitate the scent of rewarding flowers or potential mates. In this study, we investigated the floral scent involved in pollinator attraction to the rewardless orchid Dendrobium sinense, a species endemic to the Chinese island Hainan that is pollinated by the hornet Vespa bicolor. Via chemical analyses and electrophysiological methods, we demonstrate that the flowers of D. sinense produce (Z)-11-eicosen-1-ol and that the pollinator can smell this compound. This is a major compound in the alarm pheromones of both Asian (Apis cerana) and European (Apis mellifera) honey bees and is also exploited by the European beewolf (Philanthus triangulum) to locate its prey. This is the first time that (Z)-11-eicosen-1-ol has been identified as a floral volatile. In behavioral experiments, we demonstrate that the floral scent of D. sinense and synthetic (Z)-11-eicosen-1-ol are both attractive to hornets. Because hornets frequently capture honey bees to feed to their larvae, we suggest that the flowers of D. sinense mimic the alarm pheromone of honey bees in order to attract prey-hunting hornets for pollination.
    Current biology: CB 09/2009; 19(16):1368-72. · 10.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Orchids employing sexual deceit attract males of their pollinator species through specific volatile signals that mimic female-released sex pheromones. One of these signals proved to be 2-ethyl-5-propylcyclohexan-1,3-dione (chiloglottone1), a new natural product that was shown to be most important in the relations between orchids of the genus Chiloglottis, native to Australia, and corresponding pollinator species. Systematic investigations on the mass spectrometric fragmentation pattern of 2,5-dialkylcyclohexan-1,3-diones identified key ions providing information about the structures of the substituents at positions 2 and 5. Results enabled us to identify 2-ethyl-5-pentylcyclohexan-1,3-dione (chiloglottone2) and 2-butyl-5-methylcyclohexan-1,3-dione (chiloglottone3) as new natural products that play a decisive role in the pollination syndrome of some Chiloglottis species. During field bioassays, pure synthetic samples of chiloglottone1-3 or mixtures thereof proved to be attractive to the corresponding orchid pollinators. Because of their likely biogenesis from ubiquitous fatty acid precursors, 2,5-dialkylcyclohexan-1,3-diones may represent a hitherto overlooked, widespread class of natural products.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2009; 106(22):8877-82. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the sexually deceptive orchid genus Ophrys, reproductive isolation is based on the specific attraction of males of a single pollinator species by mimicking the female species-specific sex pheromone. Changes in the odor composition can lead to hybridization and speciation by the attraction of a new pollinator that acts as an isolation barrier toward other sympatrically occurring Ophrys species. On Sardinia, we investigated the evolutionary origin of two sympatrically occurring endemic species, Ophrys chestermanii and O. normanii, which are both pollinated by males of the cuckoo bumblebee Bombus vestalis. Chemical and electrophysiological analyses of floral scent and genetic analyses with amplified fragment length polymorphisms and plastid-markers clearly showed that O. normanii is neither a hybrid nor a hybrid species. The two species evolved from different ancestors, viz. O. normanii from O. tenthredinifera and O. chestermanii from O. annae, and converged to the same pollinator attracted by the same bouquet of polar compounds. In spite of sympatry, pollinator sharing and overlapping blooming periods, no evidence has been obtained for gene flow between O. chestermanii and O. normanii indicating an unusual case among sexually deceptive orchids in which postmating rather than premating reproductive isolation mechanisms strongly prevent interspecific gene flow.
    Evolution 05/2009; 63(9):2222-34. · 4.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The plum moth, Illiberis rotundata Jordan (Lepidoptera: Zygaenidae: Procridinae), is a pest of orchards in Japan and China. Few chemical ecological studies have been directed towards the Zygaenidae and particularly the Procridinae. To investigate the sex pheromone of this species, extracts of pheromone glands from adult female I. rotundata were analyzed by coupled gas chromatography-electroantennography (GC-EAG) and coupled gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Whilst GC-EAG on male moths showed an active peak, identified as 2-butyl (7Z)-dodecenoate, GC-MS also revealed the presence of the homologue 2-butyl (9Z)-tetradecenoate. Electroantennographic investigations, as well as field tests, strongly suggested the natural compounds to have the (R)-configuration at the stereogenic centre. Field results demonstrate 0.2mg of a 1:1-mixture of (2R)-butyl (7Z)-dodecenoate and (2R)-butyl (9Z)-tetradecenoate to be a powerful lure that may be used in pest control measures against I. rotundata. The chemical structures of the new pheromone components show the same features as those of other zygaenid species: unsaturated fatty acids esterified with a short chain chiral alcohol. This is the first example of a two-component blend constituting the pheromone of a procridinid species.
    Chemoecology 02/2009; 19(1):47-54. · 1.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Reproductive competition in social insects is generally mediated through specific fertility pheromones. By analysing Dufour's gland secretion in queens and workers of Bombus terrestris under varying social conditions, we demonstrate here that the volatile constituents of the secretion exhibit a context-dependent composition. The secretion of egg-laying queens is composed of a series of aliphatic hydrocarbons (alkanes and alkenes), while that of sterile workers contains in addition octyl esters, dominated by octyl hexadecanoate and octyl oleate. These esters disappear in workers with developed ovaries, whether queenright (QR) or queenless (QL), rendering their secretion queen-like. This constitutes an unusual case in which the sterile caste, rather than the fertile one, possesses extra components. Individually isolated (socially deprived) workers developed ovaries successfully, but failed to oviposit, and still possessed the octyl esters. Thus, whereas social interactions are not needed in order to develop ovaries, they appear essential for oviposition and compositional changes in Dufour's gland secretion (ester disappearance). The apparent link between high ester levels and an inability to lay eggs lends credence to the hypothesis that these esters signal functional sterility. We hypothesize that by producing a sterility-specific secretion, workers signal that 'I am out of the competition', and therefore are not attacked, either by the queen or by the reproductive workers. This enables proper colony function and brood care, in particular sexual brood, even under the chaotic conditions of the competition phase.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 02/2009; 276(1660):1295-304. · 5.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Saltational changes may underlie the diversification of pheromone communication systems in insects, which are normally under stabilizing selection favoring high specificity in signals and signal perception. In orchid bees (Euglossini), the production of male signals depends on the sense of smell: males collect complex blends of volatiles (perfumes) from their environment, which are later emitted as pheromone analogs at mating sites. We analyzed the behavioral and antennal response to perfume components in two male morphotypes of Euglossa cf. viridissima from Mexico, which differ in the number of mandibular teeth. Tridentate males collected 2-hydroxy-6-nona-1,3-dienyl-benzaldehyde (HNDB) as the dominant component of their perfume. In bidentate males, blends were broadly similar but lacked HNDB. Population genetic analysis revealed that tri- and bidentate males belong to two reproductively isolated lineages. Electroantennogram tests (EAG and GC-EAD) showed substantially lower antennal responses to HNDB in bidentate versus tridentate males, revealing for the first time a mechanism by which closely related species acquire different chemical compounds from their habitat. The component-specific differences in perfume perception and collection in males of two sibling species are in agreement with a saltational, olfaction-driven mode of signal perfume evolution. However, the response of females to the diverged signals remains unknown.
    Current biology: CB 01/2009; 18(23):1844-8. · 10.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In eusocial Hymenoptera, queen control over workers is probably inseparable from the mechanism of queen recognition. In primitively eusocial bumblebees (Bombus), worker reproduction is controlled not only by the presence or absence of a dominant queen but also by other dominant workers. Furthermore, it was shown that the queen dominance is maintained by pheromonal cues. We investigated whether there is a similar odor signal released by egg-laying queens and workers that may have a function as a fertility signal. We collected cuticular surface extracts from nest-searching and breeding Bombus terrestris queens and workers that were characterized by their ovarian stages. In chemical analyses, we identified 61 compounds consisting of aldehydes, alkanes, alkenes, and fatty acid esters. Nest-searching queens and all groups of breeding females differed significantly in their odor bouquets. Furthermore, workers before the competition point (time point of colony development where workers start to develop ovaries and lay eggs) differed largely from queens and all other groups of workers. Breeding queens showed a unique bouquet of chemical compounds and certain queen-specific compounds, and the differences toward workers decrease with an increasing development of the workers' ovaries, hinting the presence of a reliable fertility signal. Among the worker groups, the smallest differences were found after the competition point. Egg-laying females contained higher total amounts of chemical compounds and of relative proportions of wax-type esters and aldehydes than nest-searching queens and workers before the competition point. Therefore, these compounds may have a function as a fertility signal present in queens and workers.
    Naturwissenschaften 07/2008; 95(6):515-22. · 2.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: An outstanding feature of orchids is the diversity of their pollination systems [1]. Most remarkable are those species that employ chemical deceit for the attraction of pollinators [2]. The orchid Epipactis helleborine is a typical wasp flower, exhibiting physiological and morphological adaptations for the attraction of pollinating social wasps [3]. As noted by Darwin [1], this species is almost entirely overlooked by other potential pollinators, despite a large nectar reward. Therefore, the mechanism for the attraction of pollinating social wasps was something of a mystery. By using a combination of behavioral experiments, electrophysiological investigations, and chemical analyses, we demonstrate for the first time that the flowers of E. helleborine and E. purpurata emit green-leaf volatiles (GLVs), which are attractive to foragers of the social wasps Vespula germanica and V. vulgaris. GLVs, emitted by damaged plant tissues, are known to guide parasitic wasps to their hosts [4]. Several E. helleborine GLVs that induced response in the antennae of wasps were also emitted by cabbage leaves infested with caterpillars (Pieris brassicae), which are common prey items for wasps [5]. This is the first example in which GLVs have been implicated in chemical mimicry for the attraction of pollinating insects.
    Current Biology 06/2008; 18(10):740-4. · 9.49 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Grass-infecting Epichloë endophytes (Ascomycota, Calvicipitaceae) depend on Botanophila flies for gamete transfer, while fly larvae feed and develop on the fertilized fungal fruiting structures. Flies are known to be attracted by volatile signals, but the exact mechanisms of chemical communication and the degree of specialization are unknown. Headspace samples collected from five different Epichloë species were analysed with respect to physiologically active substances using Botanophila flies. In field bioassays using synthetic compounds, their attractiveness and the specificity of the Epichloë-Botanophila attraction were investigated. The identification of a new natural product, methyl (Z)-3-methyldodec-2-enoate, attracting Botanophila flies is reported here, and chokol K is confirmed as an attractive compound. Different blends of the two compounds attracted Botanophila flies under field conditions, but the three fly taxa present at the study site showed no preference for specific blends of volatiles. Chemical communication in the Epichloë-Botanophila system relies on a few specific compounds, known as a communication system with 'private channels'. Although ratios of emitted compounds vary in different Epichloë species, this seems not to lead to specialized attraction of Botanophila flies. Low selective pressure for specialization may have maintained a more generalist interaction between fungi and flies.
    New Phytologist 02/2008; 178(2):401-11. · 6.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Die Orchideenart Epipactis helleborine gilt als typische Wespenblume. Die Blüten weisen Anpassungen an den Besuch und die Bestäubung durch soziale Faltenwespen (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) auf und werden häufig durch Vespula vulgaris und V. germanica bestäubt. In früheren Untersuchungen konnte gezeigt werden, dass olfaktorische Reize bei der Bestäuberanlockung eine übergeordnete Bedeutung vor optischen Reizen haben (hölzler 2003). Die Frage, warum E. helleborine fast ausschließlich ihren optimalen Bestäuber, die soziale Faltenwespe, zur Bestäubung anlockt, und nicht auch auf andere Blütenbesucher attraktiv wirkt, ist noch unbeantwortet. Wir untersuchten die Hypothese, dass E. helleborine Blüten GLVs, die von Herbivoren befallenen Pflanzen abgegeben werden, nachahmen, um Beute jagende Wespen zur Bestäubung anzulocken. Dazu sammelten und analysierten wir Duftstoffe von Epipactis Blüten und mit Pieris-Raupen befallenen Kohl und identifizierten vier gemeinsam vorkommende GLVs. In Y-Rohrtests konnte die wespenanlockende Wirkung dieser Verbindungen nachgewiesen werden.
    01/2008;
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    ABSTRACT: Enfleurage, the extraction of elusive floral scents with the help of a lipophilic carrier (grease), is widely used in the perfume industry. Male neotropical orchid bees (Euglossini), which accumulate exogenous fragrances as pheromone analogues, use a similar technique. To collect fragrances, the bees apply large amounts of straight-chain lipids to odoriferous surfaces from their cephalic labial glands, which dissolve the volatiles, and the mixture is then transferred to voluminous hind-leg pockets. Here, we show that males do in fact operate a lipid conveyor belt to accumulate and concentrate their perfume. From the hind-leg pockets of caged male Euglossa viridissima, deuterated derivatives of carrier lipids were consecutively sequestered, shuttled back to the labial glands and reused on consecutive bouts of fragrance collection. Such lipid cycling is instrumental in creating complex perfume bouquets. Furthermore, we found that labial glands of male orchid bees are strikingly similar to those of scent-marking male bumblebees in terms of size, form and structure. This, and a prominent overlap in secretory products, led us to propose that perfume collection evolved from scent-marking in ancestral corbiculate bees.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 12/2007; 274(1627):2843-8. · 5.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Models based on the kin selection theory predict that in social hymenopterans, queens may favor a lower investment in the production of sexuals than workers. However, in perennial colonies, this conflict may be tuned down by colony-level selection because of the trade off between colony survival and reproductive allocation. In this study, we present a survey of sexual production in colonies of Aphaenogaster senilis, a common species of ant in the Iberian Peninsula. Similar to most species that reproduce by fission, males were found in large excess compared to gynes (172:1). Sexuals were more likely to be found in queenless than in queenright (QR) field colonies. However, we also found a few gynes and numerous males in very large QR colonies. We compared these data with those available in the literature for A. rudis, a congeneric species from North America that has independent colony founding. The sex ratio in this species was only five males for each female, and sexuals were mostly found in QR nests, irrespective of colony size. We confirmed queen inhibition of sexual production in A. senilis in laboratory experiments and provide evidence that this inhibition is mediated by a nonvolatile pheromone. To seek the potential source of such a queen pheromone, we analyzed the secretions of two conspicuous exocrine glands, the Dufour’s and postpharyngeal glands (DG and PPG, respectively) in both queens and workers. Both secretions were composed of hydrocarbons, but that of DG also contained small quantities of tetradecanal and hexadecanal. The hydrocarbon profile of the DG and PPG showed notable caste specificity suggesting a role in caste-related behavior. The PPG secretions also differed between colonies suggesting its role in colony-level recognition. We suggest that in A. senilis, there are two modes of colony fission: First, in very large colonies, gynes are produced, probably because of the dilution of the queen pheromone, and consequently one or more gynes leave the mother colony with workers and brood to found a new nest. This is beneficial at the colony level because it avoids the production of costly sexuals in small colonies. However, because the queen and workers have different optima for sexual production, we hypothesize that queens tend to overproduce the pheromone to delay their production. This in turn may drive workers to leave the mother colony during nest relocation and to produce sexuals once they are away from the queen’s influence, creating a second mode of colony fission.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 08/2007; 61(10):1531-1541. · 2.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Stingless bees of the species Trigona spinipes (Fabricius 1793) use their saliva to lay scent trails communicating the location of profitable food sources. Extracts of the cephalic labial glands of the salivary system (not the mandibular glands, however) contain a large amount (approx. 74%) of octyl octanoate. This ester is also found on the scent-marked substrates at the feeding site. We demonstrate octyl octanoate to be a single compound pheromone which induces full trail following behaviour. The identification of the trail pheromone in this widely distributed bee makes it an ideal organism for studying the mechanism of trail following in a day flying insect.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 04/2007; 274(1611):895-8. · 5.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Sexual behavior requires animals to distinguish between the sexes and to respond appropriately to each of them. In Drosophila melanogaster, as in many insects, cuticular hydrocarbons are thought to be involved in sex recognition and in mating behavior, but there is no direct neuronal evidence of their pheromonal effect. Using behavioral and electrophysiological measures of responses to natural and synthetic compounds, we show that Z-7-tricosene, a Drosophila male cuticular hydrocarbon, acts as a sex pheromone and inhibits male-male courtship. These data provide the first direct demonstration that an insect cuticular hydrocarbon is detected as a sex pheromone. Intriguingly, we show that a particular type of gustatory neurons of the labial palps respond both to Z-7-tricosene and to bitter stimuli. Cross-adaptation between Z-7-tricosene and bitter stimuli further indicates that these two very different substances are processed by the same neural pathways. Furthermore, the two substances induced similar behavioral responses both in courtship and feeding tests. We conclude that the inhibitory pheromone tastes bitter to the fly.
    PLoS ONE 02/2007; 2(7):e661. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Ophrys flowers mimic the female produced sex pheromone of their pollinator species to attract males for pollination. The males try to copulate with the putative female and thereby pollinate the flower. Using electrophysiological and chemical analyses, floral volatiles released by O. iricolor as well as the female sex pheromone of its pollinator species, Andrena morio are investigated. Overall, 38 peaks comprising 41 chemical compounds, were found to release reactions in the antennae of male A. morio bees. Analyses using coupled gas chromatography-mass spectrometry revealed the presence of alkanes and alkenes with 20 to 29 carbon atoms, aldehydes (C9 to C24) and two esters. Almost all of those compounds were found in similar proportions in both, the floral extracts of O. iricolor and cuticle surface extracts of A. morio females. The pattern of biologically active volatiles described here is very similar to that used by other Ophrys species pollinated by Andrena males.
    Chemoecology 01/2007; 17(4):231-233. · 1.95 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

299 Citations
92.76 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2007–2013
    • Universität Hamburg
      • • Institute of Organic Chemistry
      • • Institute of Inorganic and Applied Chemistry
      Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2008–2010
    • Universität Ulm
      • Institute of Experimental Ecology of Animals
      Ulm, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany