Tried and true


Sex pheromones are chemical compounds released by an animal that attract animals of the same species but opposite sex. They are often so specific that other species can’t smell them at all, which makes them useful as a secret communication line for just that species. But this specificity raises an intriguing question: When a new species evolves and uses a new pheromone signaling system, what comes first: the ability to make the pheromone or the ability to perceive it? […]

Any individuals that make a new and different scent would then be perceived by the receivers as being the wrong species and they won’t attract any mates. If you don’t attract mates, you can’t pass on your new genes for your new scent. This produces a strong pressure to make a scent that is as similar as the scent produced by everyone else as possible (this is called stabilizing selection). With this intense pressure to be like everyone else, how did the incredible diversity of species-specific pheromones come to be?

{ Nature | Continue reading }