Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Finding 'Mr. Right,' how insects sniff out the perfect mate

Date:
February 13, 2013
Source:
Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Summary:
You may want to ramp up your romance this year by sharing a candlelight dinner, a walk on the beach, or even the scent of a perfume, but will that help you find your perfect mate? For one wasp species, it only takes a whiff of his special love potion to know whether he’s “Mr. Right.”

A Nasonia vitripennis male wasp mating with a N. vitripennis female. After mating, the female will fertilize her eggs to produce daughters while her sons will develop directly from unfertilized eggs. These wasps are smaller than a grain of rice.
Credit: Elizabeth Cash/Josh Gibson

You may want to ramp up your romance this year by sharing a candlelight dinner, a walk on the beach, or even the scent of a perfume, but will that help you find your perfect mate? For one wasp species, it only takes a whiff of his special love potion to know whether he's "Mr. Right."

Related Articles


Unlike humans, most insects rely on their sense of smell when looking for a mate. Scientists have found that sex pheromones play an important role in finding a suitable partner of the same species; yet, little is known about the evolution and genetic basis of these alluring smells.

A team of researchers from Arizona State University and Germany found that one wasp species has evolved a specific scent, or pheromone, which keeps it from mating with other species. In addition, they discovered that the genetic basis of the new scent is simple, which allows the males to change an existing scent into a new one. Over time, the females recognize and use this new scent to distinguish their own species from others.

Scientists from ASU, the University of Regensburg, the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig Bonn, and the Technical University Darmstadt in Germany, present their findings in an article published Feb. 13 online in the journal Nature.

The researchers studied two species of the parasitic wasp genus Nasonia to learn about the evolution of sex pheromones. They asked, if male sex pheromones are used as unique mating signals to attract females, and if female wasps will not mate with males that have different pheromones, then how did the vast array of these scents evolve in insects?

They found that the pheromones of all known Nasonia wasps contain two elements except for one species, Nasonia vitripennis, which uses a novel third ingredient. These tiny wasps, less than half the size of a grain of rice, lay their eggs in developing flies. The two species in this study prefer laying their eggs in similar types of flies and are found in the same parts of the Eastern United States, which means they have many opportunities to choose the wrong mate.

"We identified a gene in N. vitripennis that we thought was responsible for its unique scent," said Josh Gibson, an ASU doctoral student working with Jόrgen Gadau, a professor in School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "Then, we successfully conducted an experiment to suppress that gene, which actually changed the composition of the sex pheromone, so that it resembled that of the other species," Gibson added.

Female N. vitripennis wasps did not respond when offered the new pheromone alone. They responded only when it was combined with the two original, or ancestral, scents. In addition, females from a closely related species, Nasonia giraulti, did not distinguish between the new and ancestral sex pheromones, regardless of whether there were two or three scents.

Thus, the researchers concluded that the N. vitripennis females did not react to the third component when it first evolved. Instead, they adapted to the new smell over time and now it is an integral part of the species-specific sex pheromone of N. vitripennis males.

This study is one of the few where researchers have identified genes that prevent a species from breeding with another closely related species. The findings provide new insights into the evolution of genes that contribute to speciation, or the formation of new species, as well as the evolution of diverse sex pheromones.

"The females use this smell to distinguish between the species," said Gibson. "This is important. If an individual wasp were to mate with a different species, it would be very costly because they would not produce viable offspring. We learned that the smell difference is based on a single and simple chemical change. Basically, this is the way the female wasp can find Mr. Right."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Oliver Niehuis, Jan Buellesbach, Joshua D. Gibson, Daniela Pothmann, Christian Hanner, Navdeep S. Mutti, Andrea K. Judson, Jόrgen Gadau, Joachim Ruther, Thomas Schmitt. Behavioural and genetic analyses of Nasonia shed light on the evolution of sex pheromones. Nature, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nature11838

Cite This Page:

Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "Finding 'Mr. Right,' how insects sniff out the perfect mate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130213114504.htm>.
Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. (2013, February 13). Finding 'Mr. Right,' how insects sniff out the perfect mate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130213114504.htm
Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "Finding 'Mr. Right,' how insects sniff out the perfect mate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130213114504.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) — As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) — Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) — Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins