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 Dr. Melanie Unbehend

   Department of Entomology
   Chemical Communication
 Phone:+49 (0)3641 57 1565Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
 Fax:+49 (0)3641 57 1502Hans-Knöll-Straße 8
  emailD-07745 Jena

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Project 1 “Sexual pheromonal polymorphism of Ostrinia nubilalis: The genetic basis of strain-specific male attraction”

The European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis, is an interesting model organism to study the evolution of sexual communication, as it consists of two distinct strains that differ in their production of and response to the female sex pheromone. The sex pheromone of the so-called Z- and E-strain consists of two pheromone components, i.e. (Z)-11-tetradecenyl acetate and (E)-11-tetradecenyl acetate, which are produced in a 97:3 Z:E ratio in the Z-strain, while E-strain females emit a 1:99 Z:E mixture. Due to the specificity of the pheromone composition, males mate assortatively with females of their own strain. I'm investigating the genetic basis of the strain-specific male attraction in a collaborative project together with researchers from France, Sweden, and the US. In our lab, I conducted different backcrosses that exhibit recombination between the two genes that flank the major QTL for the male response, i.e. the Resp region on the Z chromosome. By phenotyping and genotyping these Resp-recombinant lines, we were able to identify the gene that determines the strain-specific male attraction in O. nubilalis.


Project 2 “Variation the the sexual communication system of the fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda

The fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), is a serious pest of many crop plants in North and South America. The species consists of two different strains, the corn-strain and the rice-strain, which exhibit genetic as well as behavioral differences. In my PhD thesis, I investigated the sexual communication system of the two strains and found differences in the female pheromone production. Although behavioral and field experiments with males showed that they also exhibit some strain-specific differences in their attraction, differential sexual communication between both strains does not seem to be a strong prezygotic isolation barrier.
In my second postdoc project, I'm still working on the sexual communication system of the two strains, now with a focus on geographic variation. The fall armyworm has invaded the African continent in 2016 and has rapidly spread in the old world (India, China, Korea), so that many countries facing now the problem of a new pest species. Sex-pheromone based pest management strategies might help to reduce pest densities, but first it is important to study the sexual communication of the species in its new environment. Furthermore, I'm interested in how different factors, e.g. laboratory rearing or age, can influence the sexual communication of the fall armyworm.


Methods

- GC analysis of sex pheromones
- Wind tunnel assays
- EAG recordings
- Genetic analysis and sequencing


Collaborators

Teun Dekker, Department of Plant Protection Biology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden

Fotini Koutroumpa, INRA, Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Versailles, France

Genevieve Kozak, Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Dartmouth, Massachusetts, USA

Brad Coates, Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Ames, Iowa, USA

Sabine Haenniger, Department of Entomology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany
last updated on 2019-09-05