Cuticular hydrocarbons of Drosophila birchii and D. serrata: identification and role in mate choice in D. serrata

J Chem Ecol. 2003 Apr;29(4):961-76. doi: 10.1023/a:1022992002239.


The cuticular hydrocarbon compositions of two sympatric species of Australian Drosophila in the montium subgroup of the melanogaster group that use cuticular hydrocarbons in mate recognition have been characterized. Drosophila birchii has 34 components in greater than trace amounts, with a carbon number range of C20 to C33. Drosophila serrata has 21 components above trace level and a carbon number range of C24 to C31. These two species share eight hydrocarbon components, with all but two of them being monoenes. For both species, the (Z)-9-monoenes are the predominant positional isomer. The hydrocarbons of D. birchii are n-alkanes, n-alkenes (Z)-5-, (Z)-7-, (Z)-9-, and (Z)-11-), low to trace levels of homologous (Z,Z)-7,11- and (Z,Z)-9,13-dienes; and trace amounts of (Z,Z)-5,9-C25:2, a major component of D. serrata. Only one methyl branched hydrocarbon was detected (2-methyl C28), and it occurred at very low levels. The hydrocarbons of D. serrata are dominated by a homologous series of (Z,Z)-5,9-dienes, and notably, are characterized by the apparent absence of n-alkanes. Homologous series of (Z)-5-, (Z)-7-, and (Z)-9-alkenes are also present in D. serrata as well as 2-methyl alkanes. Drosophila serrata females display strong directional mate choice based on male cuticular hydrocarbons and prefer D. serrata males with higher relative abundances of the 2-methyl alkanes, but lower relative abundances of (Z,Z)-5.9-C24:2 and (Z)-9-C25:1.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Hydrocarbons / pharmacology*
  • Insect Proteins / analysis*
  • Insect Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*


  • Hydrocarbons
  • Insect Proteins
  • cuticle proteins, insects