added 2 research items
Chemical communication in spiders
(Figure Presented) Wasp spider looking for a mate: Female wasp spiders (see picture) use trimethyl methylcitrate as a volatile cue to attract males. The experiments were performed on a sunny meadow, showing for the first time that spider traps can be used to trap spiders in the field (photo: Helen Sandford).
Much of our knowledge regarding the role of chemicals in species recognition in arthropods is based on a few taxonomic groups, predominantly insect pest species. To investigate the chemical underpinnings of species recognition cues in other arthropods, we conducted mate choice experiments and analyzed the chemical profiles of two species in the long-jawed spider genus Tetragnatha from allopatric populations across two different continents. In two separate bioassays, in which male T. extensa spiders were presented with either web silk or extracts from the silk of conspecific and heterospecific females, males consistently chose the silk or silk extract of conspecific females over those of heterospecifics. We examined the chemistry affecting this response using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to analyze silk and whole-body extracts of the spiders. The major compounds in the extracts were identified as long chain aliphatic methyl ethers. The chemical profiles of the two species differed: the T. extensa profile consisted of 12,20-dimethylnonacosyl methyl ether (A), 8,14,20-trimethylnonacosyl methyl ether (B), and 6,14,20-trimethylnonacosyl methyl ether (C), while the profile of T. versicolor consisted of B and 14,20-dimethylnonacosyl methyl ether (D). Within each species, chemical profiles of females and males did not differ. Our results suggest that these methyl ethers are involved in species recognition of Tetragnatha spiders. This is the first study to propose compounds involved in species recognition in spiders.
While chemical communication has been investigated intensively in vertebrates and insects, relatively little is known about the sensory world of spiders despite the fact that chemical cues play a key role in natural and sexual selection in this group. In insects, olfaction is performed with wall-pore and gustation with tip-pore sensilla. Since spiders possess tip-pore sensilla only, it is unclear how they accomplish olfaction. We scrutinized the ultrastructure of the trichoid tip-pore sensilla of the orb weaving spider Argiope bruennichi-a common Palearctic species the males of which are known to be attracted by female sex pheromone. We also investigated the congener Argiope blanda. We examined whether the tip-pore sensilla differ in ultrastructure depending on sex and their position on the tarsi of walking legs of which only the distal parts are in contact with the substrate. We hypothesized as yet undetected differences in ultrastructure that suggest gustatory versus olfactory functions. All tarsal tip-pore sensilla of both species exhibit characters typical of contact-chemoreceptors, such as (a) the presence of a pore at the tip of the sensillum shaft, (b) 2-22 uniciliated chemoreceptive cells with elongated and unbranched dendrites reaching up to the tip-pore, (c) two integrated mechanoreceptive cells with short dendrites and large tubular bodies attached to the sensillum shaft's base, and (d) a socket structure with suspension fibres that render the sensillum shaft flexible. The newly found third mechanoreceptive cell attached to the proximal end of the peri-dendritic shaft cylinder by a small tubular body was likely overlooked in previous studies. The organization of tarsal tip-pore sensilla did not differ depending on the position on the tarsus nor between the sexes. As no wall-pore sensilla were detected, we discuss the probability that a single type of sensillum performs both gustation and olfaction in spiders.
The analysis of cuticular extracts from the cleptoparasitic spider Argyrodes elevatus revealed the presence of unusual esters, new for arthropods. These novel compounds proved to be methyl-branched long chain fatty acid esters with methyl branches located either close or remote from the internally located ester group. GC/MS analysis of the prosoma lipid blend from the male cuticle contained one major component, undecyl 2-methyltridecanoate (1). In contrast, four major wax type esters, 2-methylundecyl 2,8-dimethylundecanoate (2), 2,8-dimethylundecyl 2,8-dimethylundecanoate (3), heptadecyl 4-methylheptanoate (4), and 14-methylheptadecyl 4-methylheptanoate (5), were identified in the lipid blend of female prosomata. Structure assignments were based on mass spectra, gas chromatographic retention indices, and microderivatization. Unambiguous proof of postulated structures was ensured by independent synthesis of all five esters. Preferentially odd-numbered carbon chains pointed to a distinct biosynthetic pathway, different from that of common fatty acids, because one or two C3 starter units are incorporated during the biosynthesis of all acid and alcohol building blocks present in the five esters. The striking sexual dimorphism together with the unique biosynthesis points to a function of the esters in chemical communication of the spiders, although no behavioral data are currently available to test this assumption. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
A methodological insight into electrophysiological recordings to test for a gustatory and olfactory function of tip-pore sensilla on the body appendages of the wasp-spider Argiope bruennichi is given.
Chemical communication is very likely used by all spiders in many contexts, but we know little about the nature of the substances involved, their biosynthesis and where and how they are perceived. However, during the last decade, it became more and more obvious that the chemical communication systems in spiders are important in reproduction, prey detection, predator avoidance and even in the context of site selection. The chemical signals involved and the spider’s responses can be highly complex and plastic.