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Unusual macrocyclic lactone sex pheromone of Parcoblatta lata, a primary food source of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

  • Eliyahu, Dorit
  • Nojima, Satoshi
  • Santangelo, Richard G
  • Carpenter, Shannon
  • Webster, Francis X
  • Kiemle, David J
  • Gemeno, Cesar
  • Leal, Walter S
  • Schal, Coby
Published Article
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
Feb 21, 2012
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1111748109
PMID: 22184232


Wood cockroaches in the genus Parcoblatta, comprising 12 species endemic to North America, are highly abundant in southeastern pine forests and represent an important prey of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, Picoides borealis. The broad wood cockroach, Parcoblatta lata, is among the largest and most abundant of the wood cockroaches, constituting >50% of the biomass of the woodpecker's diet. Because reproduction in red-cockaded woodpeckers is affected dramatically by seasonal and spatial changes in arthropod availability, monitoring P. lata populations could serve as a useful index of habitat suitability for woodpecker conservation and forest management efforts. Female P. lata emit a volatile, long-distance sex pheromone, which, once identified and synthesized, could be deployed for monitoring cockroach populations. We describe here the identification, synthesis, and confirmation of the chemical structure of this pheromone as (4Z,11Z)-oxacyclotrideca-4,11-dien-2-one [= (3Z,10Z)-dodecadienolide; herein referred to as "parcoblattalactone"]. This macrocyclic lactone is a previously unidentified natural product and a previously unknown pheromonal structure for cockroaches, highlighting the great chemical diversity that characterizes olfactory communication in cockroaches: Each long-range sex pheromone identified to date from different genera belongs to a different chemical class. Parcoblattalactone was biologically active in electrophysiological assays and attracted not only P. lata but also several other Parcoblatta species in pine forests, underscoring its utility in monitoring several endemic wood cockroach species in red-cockaded woodpecker habitats.

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