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Chemical Ecology: The Chemistry of Biotic Interaction
example, male moths generally respond to only a range of pheromone component ratios that centers around the ratio of components produced by females (reviewed in ref. 50); do the wasps that eavesdrop on female moth sex pheromones have the same ratio specificity? How does this differ between specialist and generalist parasitoids? Does learning modify the responses of eavesdropping parasitoids and predators as it does in the parasitoids and predators that respond to plant "alarm" odors? In plants damaged by herbivorous arthropods, what are the mechanisms involved in the release of volatile signals? (See refs. 51, 52.) What are the factors in insect spit that plants respond to? How do hormones or other chemical signals bring about the systemic response of the entire plant to localized herbivore damage? How does the mechanism of plant response vary between major plant groups? (For speculation concerning the evolution of the eavesdropping and alarm systems, see refs. 8 and 10.) In the prey-attracting spiders, where are the volatile-producing glands? How does the biosynthesis of spider compounds compare to the biosynthesis of pheromone compounds by their prey? Do all three spider groups vary their prey-attracting blends? Is this variation controlled by learning, influenced by seasonal cues, or due to genetic differences between individuals? (For speculation concerning the evolution of these systems, see ref. 9.)
Much of the interest in these complex chemically mediated relationships lies in the potential agricultural application of research results. Future work on "eavesdropping"- and "alarm"-based relationships may lead to more effective use of parasitoids for biological control. Semiochemicals may be useful for attracting parasitoids or predators into a crop or increasing the amount of time they spend searching for hosts or prey in a field. New crop varieties may be developed that emit greater amounts of "alarm" compounds when attacked by herbivorous pests and thus are more effective in recruiting natural enemies of their attackers. Spiders that practice deceit represent an unexploited chemical library of compounds that may be useful in pheromone-based monitoring and control of crop pests. Analysis of spider volatiles might provide the first insight into the sex pheromone chemistry of those numerous prey taxa whose chemistry has never been studied or might reveal the existence of attractive sex pheromone analogs. The eventual applications arising from research in this area may be as unanticipated and exciting as many of the research results obtained so far.
Arthropods that prey on or parasitize other arthropods frequently employ those chemical cues that reliably indicate the presence of their