Characterisation of antennal sensilla and electroantennography responses of the dung beetles Bubas bison, Onitis aygulus and Geotrupes spiniger (Coleoptera: Scarabaeoidea) to dung volatile organic compounds

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Abstract

Locating sporadically distributed food resources and mate finding are strongly aided by volatile cues for most insects, including dung beetles. However, there is limited information on the olfactory ecology of dung beetles. We conducted a scanning electron microscopy study on the morphology and distribution of the antennal sensilla of three introduced dung beetle species in Australia: Geotrupes spiniger (Coleoptera: Geotrupidae), Bubas bison and Onitis aygulus (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Three main morphological types of antennal sensilla were identified: sensilla trichodea (ST), sensilla basiconica (SB) and sensilla chaetica (SCh). Distinct variations of SB distribution were observed in B. bison and G. spiniger and on different lamellar surfaces in both sexes of all three species. Sexual dimorphism in antennal sensilla distribution or their abundance was not evident. To complement the morphological characterisation of sensilla, electroantennography (EAG) was carried out to construct EAG response profiles of the three species to selected dung volatiles. An initial study revealed that antennae of all species were sensitive to a mix of phenol, skatole, indole, p-cresol, butanone and butyric acid, common components of livestock dung headspace. In addition to these six compounds, dimethyl sulfide, dimethyl disulfide, eucalyptol and toluene were tested for antennal activity. All compounds evoked measurable EAG responses, confirming antennal sensitivity. Geotrupes spiniger exhibited significant responses to all the compounds compared to the control, whereas B. bison and O. aygulus only responded to a subset of compounds. A comparison of relative EAG amplitudes revealed highly significant responses to p-cresol in G. spiniger and to skatole in B. bison. Geotrupes spiniger displayed differential responses to all the compounds. Pooled EAG data suggest highly significant differences in responses among the three species and among compounds. Our findings suggest that a blend of volatiles may offer potential for the trapping of dung beetles, thereby avoiding the use of dung baits that are inconvenient, inconsistent and may pose a threat to farm biosecurity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number627
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInsects
Volume14
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

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