Environmentally Controlled Sex Expression in Meloidodera floridensis


  • A. C. Triantaphyllou
  • H. Hirschmann


Larvae of Meloidodera floridensis develop as females after feeding on pine roots, but become males under conditions of starvation. Seventy to 80% of the larvae kept in tap water at 23 C for 4 months underwent one or two molts, developing as males, and more than 50% became adult males. Ninety-six percent of the larvae that entered pine roots became females and only 4% developed as males. There is evidence that the latter did not feed on the roots. In comparison with tap water, solutions of cholesterol, testosterone propionate and[beta]-estradiol did not significantly affect the percentage of larvae that developed into males. Larvae kept in soil without a host plant did not develop into males. Most of them exhausted their energy supply and died without undergoing any development. We conclude that sex expression in M. floridensis is to a large extent controlled by environmental factors. Under natural conditions of feeding on a host plant, larvae develop as females according to their genetic constitution (thelytokous organism). Under conditions of starvation, however, sexual differentiation proceeds toward the male direction, probably as a result of alteration of the hormonal balance of the larvae and the subsequent activation of different sites of genetic function. Key Words: postembryogenesis, development, hormones.