Morphology, ultrastructure and phylogeny of beewolf exocrine glands


Hymenoptera possess a huge variety of exocrine glands that serve several functions. Most studies were concerned with social species and some glands are thought to have evolved in response to the requirements of the social group. European beewolves have a number of exocrine glands that are interesting because of their special function or because of their possible homology with "social" glands.

Female European beewolves possess unique antennal glands with an exceptional morphology so far undescribed in other Hymenoptera that function as brood pouches for symbiotic bacteria of the genus Streptomyces. In both sexes there are large cephalic glands. In females these glands are involved in the preservation of the prey, whereas in males they produce and store the male sex pheromone.

We examine the fine- and ultrastructure of the described glands using light and electron microscopy (SEM/TEM) and reconstruct their morphology either with sections or with NMR spectroscopy using the 3D-Visualisation-software Amira®. To elucidate the evolutionary origin of these glands and their possible initial functions we conduct comparative analyses of other species of aculeate hymenoptera.



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TEM micrograph of class 3 gland cell in antenna

Fotos © Wolfgang Göttler