The surface lipids of insects protect them from desiccation and may modulate susceptibility to fungal infections. We conducted a comparative analysis of cuticular lipids of the migratory locust and Italian locust. The former inhabits relatively wet landscapes and the latter more arid ones. We analyzed cuticular lipids of these species by gas chromatography with mass spectrometry and found that the Italian locust has a hydrocarbon profile shifted toward long chains as well as a higher content of di- and trimethyl branched hydrocarbons, which is most likely an adaptation to the arid climate and strong temperature fluctuations in its habitats. Meanwhile, the surface of the Italian locust proved to be more hospitable for fungi. The number of Metarhizium conidia attached to the Italian locust cuticle was three-fold greater as compared to the migratory locust. Mortality due to the fungal infection was faster in the Italian locust under laboratory conditions. We propose that species inhabiting arid landscapes rarely encounter fungal pathogens and primarily deal with the problem of desiccation. Therefore, they can afford a cuticle that is hospitable to fungal pathogens.
Cuticular lipids protect insects from desiccation and may determine resistance to fungal pathogens. Nonetheless, the trade-off between these lipid functions is still poorly understood. The migratory locust Locusta migratoria and the Italian locust Calliptamus italicus have dissimilar hygrothermal preferences: L. migratoria inhabits areas near water bodies with a reed bed, and C. italicus exploits a wide range of habitats and prefers steppes and semideserts with the predominance of sagebrushes. This paper presents significant differences between these species’ nymphs in epicuticular lipid composition (according to gas chromatography with mass spectrometry) and in susceptibility to Metarhizium robertsii and Beauveria bassiana. The main differences in lipid composition are shifts to longer chain and branched hydrocarbons (di- and trimethylalkanes) in C. italicus compared to L. migratoria. C. italicus also has a slightly higher n-alkane content. Fatty acids showed low concentrations in the extracts, and L. migratoria has a wider range of fatty acids than C. italicus does. Susceptibility to M. robertsii and the number of conidia adhering to the cuticle proved to be significantly higher in C. italicus, although conidia germination percentages on epicuticular extracts did not differ between the species. We propose that the hydrocarbon composition of C. italicus may be an adaptation to a wide range of habitats including arid ones but may make the C. italicus cuticle more hospitable for fungi. View Full-Text