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Pheromone

Pheromone

Pheremones are chemical signals released by an organism that influence the behavior of another. Communication between living cells is often ultimately chemical in nature. Chemical substances produced by one cell travel to another cell where they bind to protein receptors in the cell membrane or within the interior of the cell and initiate a series of signal transduction mechanisms that elicit a response. Chemicals that travel within an organism between cells of its own body are variously termed paracrines, neurotransmitters , neuromodulators, or hormones . Pheromones are chemicals that are carried between individual organisms of the same species. The response of the receiving organism is usually a change in its physiology or behavior.

Pheromones are often involved in the mating behavior between males and females in which the chemical serves as an attractant for one of the sexes. Following emergence from the cocoon, female Cecropia moths crawl a short distance away and broadcast a pheromone early in the morning that serves as an attractant for flying males. Males have olfactory ("smell") receptors on their antennae and they fly upwind and orient themselves to equalize the signals received by the two antennae. In this way, they can locate a virgin female from several miles away. Females of closely related species may use the same or a similar chemical but broadcast it at different times of the day. Males are genetically programmed to respond only at the appropriate time.

The female nearly always produces pheromones that serve as sex attractants, but males may produce pheromones that serve as aphrodisiacs. Mantispids are small predaceous insects that resemble miniature praying mantids. Courtship behavior is elaborate because the male must convince the female that he is a potential mate rather than an easy meal. The male produces a sweet musklike substance from his abdomen that helps to appease the female and reduce her predatory instincts.

Pheromones may be involved in mating even when the organisms do not actually meet. Many marine creatures such as sea urchins and oysters release eggs and sperm in the water in a process called spawning. Pheromones in these secretions will induce other members of the same species to simultaneously release their eggs or sperm, thereby increasing the likelihood that external fertilization will occur.

The preceding examples have involved pheromones carried in the air or water, but direct contact between the receiving organism and the pheromone must sometimes occur. Ants finding a source of food will lay down a trail with a secretion from their Dufour's gland by touching their abdomen to the ground as they return to the colony. Foragers leaving the colony can follow the pheromone trail back to the food source.

Sometime a pheromone can be "decoded" by another species and used against the animal that normally responds to it. The bolas spider twirls a silken thread tipped with a glob of sticky silk that it throws at insect prey to entrap them. The strand is coated with the same pheromone produced by certain female moths to attract males of their own species. When the amorous moths fly to the spider expecting to mate, they are instead captured and eaten.

see also Chemoreception; Hormones; Insect; Sexual Reproduction; Synaptic Transmission

Kurt Redborg

Bibliography

Chapman, Reginald F. The Insects: Structure and Function, 4th ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Sumich, James L. An Introduction to the Biology of Marine Life. Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown, 1996.

Wilson, E. O. The Insect Societies. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1971.

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pheromones

pheromones like hormones, are secretions that act as chemical signals. While hormones change the behaviour of target cells elsewhere in the body, pheromones are odours that ‘carry stimulation’ (from the Greek phero and horma) and change the behaviour of other creatures of the same species that pick up the scent. Pheromones are widespread in the animal world, from the single-celled amoeba to human beings. A classic example is the pheromone emitted by female gypsy moths, which can be detected by sensory receptors on the antennae of a male moth 1 Km or more away, enabling it to home in on the female. Unspayed female dogs can attract males from a similar distance. Ants have a ‘lexicon’ of different pheromones, which they use to elicit attacks on or flight from predators, to mark trails, and so on. Territorial mammals often mark their territory with pheromones in their urine, or rubbed on to ‘scenting posts’ from glands in their skin. There seems to be genetically determined variation of pheromones among individuals of some species, enabling them to recognize mates, offspring or intruders on their territory. Although humans appear to have lost much of the olfactory sensitivity of their mammalian ancestors, recent research suggests that body odours, not necessarily consciously perceived, play an important role in social interaction. Human sweat acquires a distinctive odour at puberty, but urine, as well as genital secretions, may also contain pheromones. The well-known synchronization of the menstrual cycles of nuns and girls at boarding school is probably mediated by odour, and there is evidence that smell enables mothers to distinguish their own children's clothing from that worn by others. Sexual preference is certainly influenced by smell: love may indeed be largely a matter of ‘chemistry’.

Colin Blakemore


See also body odour; taste and smell.

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pheromones

pheromones, any of a variety of substances, secreted by many animal species, that alter the behavior of individuals of the same species. Sex attractant pheromones, secreted by a male or female to attract the opposite sex, are widespread among insects. The pheromones produced by males include a substance produced by cockroaches that attracts females and orients them in the correct mating positions and a substance elaborated by the desert locust that accelerates sexual maturation in adults of both sexes. Male-attracting pheromones have been discovered in the females of many species of beetles, bees, and moths. The polyphemus moth will not mate unless red oak leaves are present; it has been found that the leaves give off a volatile aldehyde that stimulates the female to release a male-attracting pheromone. Attempts are being made to use pheromones in insect control, e.g., as bait to attract males to field traps or, in very high concentrations, to disorient insects and prevent mating.

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pheromone

pheromone (ectohormone) A chemical substance (see semiochemical) emitted by an organism into the environment as a specific signal to another organism, usually of the same species. Pheromones play an important role in the social behaviour of certain animals, especially insects and mammals. They are used to attract mates, to mark trails, and to promote social cohesion and coordination in colonies (see queen substance). Pheromones are usually highly volatile organic acids or alcohols and can be effective at minute concentrations.

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pheromone

pher·o·mone / ˈferəˌmōn/ • n. Zool. a chemical substance produced and released into the environment by an animal, esp. a mammal or an insect, affecting the behavior or physiology of others of its species. DERIVATIVES: pher·o·mo·nal / ferəˈmōnl/ adj.

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pheromone

pheromone A chemical substance, produced and released into the environment by an animal, which then elicits a physiological and/or behavioural response in another individual of the same species. For example, pheromones are released by a variety of glands on the abdomen, head, and wings of insects.

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pheromone

pheromone A chemical substance, produced and released into the environment by an animal, which then elicits a physiological and/or behavioural response in another individual of the same species. For example, pheromones are released by a variety of glands on the abdomen, head and wings of insects.

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pheromone

pheromone Substance secreted externally by certain animals that influences the behaviour of members of the same species. Common in mammals and insects, these substances are often sexual attractants. They may be a component of body products such as urine, or secreted by specific glands.

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pheromone

pheromonealone, atone, Beaune, bemoan, blown, bone, Capone, clone, Cohn, Cologne, condone, cone, co-own, crone, drone, enthrone, flown, foreknown, foreshown, groan, grown, half-tone, home-grown, hone, Joan, known, leone, loan, lone, moan, Mon, mown, ochone, outflown, outgrown, own, phone, pone, prone, Rhône, roan, rone, sewn, shown, Simone, Sloane, Soane, sone, sown, stone, strown, throne, thrown, tone, trombone, Tyrone, unbeknown, undersown, zone •Dione • backbone • hambone •breastbone • aitchbone •tail bone, whalebone •cheekbone • shin bone • hip bone •wishbone • splint bone • herringbone •thigh bone • jawbone • marrowbone •knuckle bone • collarbone •methadone • headphone • cellphone •heckelphone • payphone • Freefone •radio-telephone, telephone •videophone • francophone •megaphone • speakerphone •allophone • Anglophone • xylophone •gramophone • homophone •vibraphone • microphone •saxophone • answerphone •dictaphone •sarrusophone, sousaphone •silicone • pine cone • snow cone •flyblown • cyclone • violone •hormone • pheromone • Oenone •chaperone • progesterone •testosterone

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