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Studies of elemental composition as a biological marker in insects. I. The influence of soil type and host-plant on elemental composition of Noctua pronuba (L.) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)



Studies of elemental composition as a biological marker in insects. I. The influence of soil type and host-plant on elemental composition of Noctua pronuba (L.) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)



Bulletin of Entomological Research 74(2): 207-225



Wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometry was used to make quantitative determinations of the elemental composition of adults of Noctua pronuba (L.) that had been reared on 8 soil-plant combinations and a semi-synthetic diet. There were 2 host-plants, faba bean and lettuce, each grown in 2 clay soils of different acidity, a sand and a commercial potting compost. Analyses were done for 15 elements: K, P, S, Mg, Ca, Cl, Zn, Si, Al, Fe, Cu, Mn, Ni, Cr, Ti. Two groups of elements were distinguished; the first 6, or major elements, each with an average content about equal to or more than 1000 micro g/g, and the last 9, or minor elements, each with an average content of less than 1000 micro g/g. The 2nd group was subdivided into 4, Zn, Si, Al, Fe, each with an average content of more than 100 micro g/g and 4, Cu, Mn, Ni, Cr, of less than 100 micro g/g; Ti was of erratic occurrence and was excluded from most statistical analyses. When all elements in all soil-plant combinations were considered, principal components analyses showed no distinction between insects reared on any soil-plant combination, probably because of interactions between host-plants and soils. When data were grouped into 2 host-plant subsets and only the major elements were analysed, soils were separable within each host-plant subset. In each case, the 2 clay soils were clearly separable from the other 2 soils but not from each other. In both host-plant subsets, sexes were distinguishable by a consistently higher K content in males. No clear separations were evident in either host-plant subset when all 8 minor elements were considered or when these were separated into 2 further groups. This work indicates that (i) characteristic elemental compositions, or chemoprints, are present in N. pronuba; (ii) choice, not necessarily number, of elements is likely to be critical in describing and interpreting chemoprints; (iii) chemoprinting is unlikely to enable sources of populations to be identified in polyphagous species like N. pronuba; and (iv) the environmentally linked variation in chemical composition, affecting biologically essential elements, may have important consequences in the population dynamics of migratory and parthenogenetic species.

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Accession: 001256185

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DOI: 10.1017/s0007485300011354



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