Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A Hint of Frog in the Air

Macrolides are volatile pheromones from Madagascar frogs

Amphibians are at home in water, but can they also sense volatile compounds in the air? “Indeed they can,” reports Stefan Schulz. Working with colleague Miguel Vences and Ph.D. students Dennis Poth and Katharina Wollenberg at the University of Brunswick, he has found volatile pheromones in frogs from Madagascar. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, the scientists have now introduced various natural compounds that the frogs apparently use for communication.

“Anuran amphibians communicate primarily by means of acoustic, optical, and tactile signals,” explains Schulz. “In addition, they also seem to communicate through peptides and proteins that easily dissolve in water or on the water’s surface. There have recently been indications that frogs may also respond to volatile signal compounds.”

Schulz and his co-workers have now examined frogs from Madagascar (Mantellidae), a very species-rich family of frogs from the rainforests. The males of one subspecies, the Mantellinae, form large characteristic glands on the undersides of their rear shanks.

The function of these glands was not previously known, but they could be related to pheromonal communication. Schulz and his colleagues now report a surprising discovery: “The glands contain volatile, nonpeptidic compounds that act as pheromones and are structurally related to volatile insect secretions.”

In the glands of the frog Mantidactylus multiplicatus, the researchers found two volatile main components, and demonstrated that the frogs react to both substances. One of the components is an alcohol, the other a macrolide, a ring-shaped molecule with an intramolecular ester group.

It is related to phoracantholide J, a component of the defensive secretion of the Australian beetle Phoracantha synonyma. However, the spatial arrangement of the atoms is different: the frog macrolide is the mirror image of the beetle molecule. For identification purposes, Schulz’s team developed a new synthetic route for the production of phoracantholide J that delivers enantiomerically pure products, either only the original version or the mirror image. Their method is also less complicated than earlier approaches.

The researchers found similar macrolides in the glands of related frogs. For example, in the species Gephyromantis boulengeri, they discovered a previously unknown macrolide that they named gephyromantolid A. “In fact, volatile compounds are widespread among the Mantellinae, but occur in species-specific mixtures,” says Schulz. “The volatile compounds could play a previously underrated role in species recognition over short distances in these very species-rich communities.”

This could explain the extreme degree of species diversity of frogs in the tropical rainforest. With over 100 species per region in Madagascar, chemical recognition of species could help to avoid failed pairings that lead to nonviable offspring. Such macrolides could thus have a significant influence on the speciation and evolution of tropical amphibians.

About the Author
Dr. Stefan Schulz is Professor of Organic Chemistry at the Technische Universität Braunschweig, where he is Director of the Institute for Organic Chemistry. His research interests include the chemistry of signal substances, natural materials chemistry, and environmental chemistry. He is particularly interested in the pheromones of insects, arachnids, reptiles amphibians, and bacteria.
Author: Stefan Schulz, Technische Universität Braunschweig (Germany),
Title: Volatile Amphibian Pheromones: Macrolides of Mantellid Frogs From Madagascar

Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article:

Stefan Schulz | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:

Further reports about: Ambient Air Angewandte Chemie CHEMISTRY Frog Madagascar

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>