Contrasting volatilomes of livestock dung drive preference of the dung beetle bubas bison (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae)

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Volatile cues can play a significant role in the location and discrimination of food resources by insects. Dung beetles have been reported to discriminate among dung types produced by different species, thereby exhibiting behavioral preferences. However, the role of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in dung localization and preference remains largely unexplored in dung beetles. Here we performed several studies: firstly, cage olfactometer bioassays were performed to evaluate the behavioral responses of Bubas bison (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) to VOCs emanating from fresh horse, sheep, and cattle dung; secondly, concurrent volatilome analysis was performed to characterize volatilomes of these dung types. Bubas bison adults exhibited greater attraction to horse dung and less attraction to cattle dung, and they preferred dung from horses fed a pasture-based diet over dung from those fed lucerne hay. Volatilomes of the corresponding dung samples from each livestock species contained a diverse group of alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters, phenols, and sulfurous compounds, but the composition and abundance of annotated VOCs varied with dung type and livestock diet. The volatilome of horse dung was the most chemically diverse. Results from a third study evaluating electroantennogram response and supplementary olfactometry provided strong evidence that indole, butyric acid, butanone, p-cresol, skatole, and phenol, as well as toluene, are involved in the attraction of B. bison to dung, with a mixture of these components significantly more attractive than individual constituents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4152
Number of pages17
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2022

Grant Number

  • RnD4Profit-16-03-016


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