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Drosophila athabasca, a species complex native to North America, provides a unique opportunity to study nascent speciation arising from sexual isolation. Some have suggested that cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) influence the sexual selection process. Extensive analyses have resulted in complex understandings of CHC involvement in insect mate preference, with minimal work focusing on D. athabasca. The goal of this study is to identify, synthesize and measure biologically relevant quantities of CHCs present in this species complex. Gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC-MS) from several isofemale lines of D. athabasca allows for characterization of contributing compounds including saturated, unsaturated, and branched alkanes, fatty acids, acetates, and esters. Identification of these compounds using characteristic fragmentation patterns allowed for confirmation by synthetic standards. To date, over 100 CHCs have been characterized in D. athabasca using these analytical and organic methods. An overview of the analysis techniques and future direction will be presented.

Isolation, Characterization, and Synthesis of Cuticular Hydrocarbon Natural Products from Drosophila athabasca, A Species of Evolutionary Interest