In fact, they produced bugs so irresistible that normal male fruit flies attempted to mate with pheromone-free males and even females from a different species-generally a no-no in the fruit fly dating scene.
The study, published in the Oct. 15 issue of Nature, points to a link between sex, species recognition and a specific chemical mechanism, and is part of Levine's larger research into the genetic basis of social behaviour.
"This is important not only from the point of view of understanding social dynamics, but it's also fundamental biology, because these pheromones provide recognition cues that facilitate reproductive behaviour," says Levine, an assistant professor of biology. "Lacking these chemical signals (pheromones) eliminated barriers to mating. It turned out that males of other species were attracted to females who didn't have these signals, so that seemed to eliminate the species barrier."
In this study, they focused on recognition-how individual Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) know what their species is and what their sex is. While previous studies had suggested that pheromones played an important role, Levine's team decided to genetically eliminate a certain class of these chemicals, called cuticular hydrocarbon pheromones, to determine their particular effect.
The researchers found that female flies bred without the hydrocarbons were melanogaster Marilyn Monroes to normal males. But the effect didn't stop there-males lacking the hydrocarbons were also sexually irresistible. In fact, females lacking the hydrocarbons were so sexy that males of other Drosophila species courted them.
When the researchers treated females bred without the hydrocarbons with a female aphrodisiac, it restored the barrier preventing sex between species, suggesting that a single compound can provide species identity. "That means the same chemical signals and genes are underlying not only social behaviour in groups, like courtship and mating, but also behaviour between species."
Levine stresses that while pheromones are part of the human mating dance, the cues for attraction are far more complex in our species.
"Although I am no expert on human pheromones, there is evidence that men and women may discriminate odours from the same sex or other sexes differently, and there's even some evidence that how an individual discriminates those odours may reflect their gender preference," he says. "We may rely more on the visual system, and we may have a more complex way of assessing other individuals and classifying them and determining how we're going to relate to them than a fly does.
"But what we're looking at is a spectrum across biology of a tendency to understand how others relate to ourselves. It's clearly an issue that humans are caught up in-it's in our art, like Madame Butterfly and it's in our newspapers, in terms of sports issues like the recent controversy about the sexual identify of the South African runner Caster Semenya."
The study was funded by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Canada Research Chair grants awarded to Levine.
*Images available upon request.CONTACT:
Nicolle Wahl | EurekAlert!
Polymers Based on Boron?
18.01.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production
18.01.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
18.01.2018 | Business and Finance
18.01.2018 | Medical Engineering