These butterflies used their vesicle genitalia to keep them away from rivals

Heliconius melpomene butterflies mating in captivity in Panama.

Heliconius Melpomine Butterflies mating in captivity in Panama.
The image: Kelsey Byers

A chemical produced by the male genitals of this tropical butterfly is so repulsive, scientists refer to it as “anti-aphrodisiac”.

New research published today in PLOS Biology describes the genetic bases of a chemical compound made by men. Heliconius Melpomine Butterflies This is a great example of a chemical signal, in which odor is used for communication. In this case, the chemical, called oiiminine, “acts as an anti-aphrodisiac pheromone, which is transferred from females to males for further courtship from the latter,” the authors in their paper Let’s write.

Attractively, some plants also produce oilyamine, but they use it for a different purpose. New research is uncovering a unique case of convergent evolution. In addition to identifying genes in Heliconius Melpomine Responsible for the production of the chemical, this is the first time that scientists have documented the production of this chemical, in an animal, a terpene.

Accordingly, new research dispels the earlier assumption Heliconius Melpomine Sour Ocean from plants (experiments conducted in 2007) is shown Oshin-covered women were less frequently contacted than men engaging in a control substance). As new research suggests, however, these butterflies can make this chemical by themselves.

Members of Heliconius Melpomine Has an exceptionally long lifespanN S for butterflies, as opposed to the normal one month to live for about six months. They live in central and south america And display a wide range of wing color patterns, Based on their geographical location. These butterflies are toxic, so The patterns serve as a warning to predators. These patterns also play a role in sexual selection, as butterflies of this species choose mates that look like themselves.

First author Kathy Darragh with Heliconius Butterfly at Madingale Insectivores in Cambridge.

First author Kathy Darragh with Heliconius butterfly at Madingale insectivores in Cambridge.
The image: Tom Almroth-Williams

“While the pattern has attracted the most attention, it has also long been noted that these butterflies have an odor,” explained Kathy Darragh, Lead author of new Paper in an email. “We now know that this odor is involved in mate-guarding, acting as an anti-aphrodisiac to remove future mating attempts from other males. Pass Did this research while doing PhD at Cambridge University.

Humans are very visible organisms, but many animals depend on chemical signalsIng as their main form of communication. Orchids, for example, The buffoon The smell of female insects to attract males for pollination. Anti-aphrodisiacs have also been documented in other pests, including beetles and plant insects.

Butterflies, with their striking colors and patterns, use visual cues to communicate clearly, but this does not mean that they also do not use chemicals. Darragh, now with UC Davis, wanted to investigate how chemical signals could play a role in butterfly communication.

“An interesting aspect of this, which was the focus of the current study, is how butterflies can make the chemicals that they use in signLing, ”she said. “In other words, what genes do butterflies have that allow them to make these compounds? And are these similar genes used to make these compounds in plants? “

Actually, the ocean is also produced by tropical plants. To attract butterflies for pollination (just a little more on this apparent contradiction). This is an example of convergent evolution, in which two independent species develop a similar feature. However, the unique thing about this discovery is that plants and insects use this chemical for various purposes (though still for chemical signaling), and Plants and insects use various genetic mechanisms to produce it. In the new paper, researchers identify a novel gene Heliconius Melpomine Attributed to the ocean, which is unrelated to the previously described genes in plants with the same function.

“The production of oiminae has evolved independently through different genes in different plants and butterflies, showing how different molecular mechanisms can reduce the production of a specific chemical compound,” he said. Pass “Independent development of a single trait, in this case pheromone production, many times, provides us with a great system to help in development.”

That plants use omenine to attract pests, but this butterfly uses it as a repellent, is a strange observation. Writers don’t fully understand why, but they think it may have something to do with how visual and olfactory information work together. In other words, context matters; Explains a chemical substance when a butterfly is coming from a plant. But as an anti-aphrodisiac when another butterfly is coming from. “The scent itself does not change,” Pass said, “but the context, and therefore how the sign is interpreted.”

This is all well and well, but if a man successfully intercourse with a woman, why should he care about the other suitors? The answer is that women Heliconius Melpomine Store sperm for months, During which time they patiently fertilize their eggs. Later episodes of sexual intercourse will introduce new sperm. This has resulted in a male-on-male competition and this bizarre arms race involves stinky genitals.

It also gets awkward, as it creates scenarios in which curious women like to hook up a lot, but men want nothing to do with them. Think of it as an insectivorous version of sexual frustration.

At the same time, however, Daragah believes it can actually work for the benefit of women. “Anti-aphrodisiacs can also act as honest signs of receptivity, reducing harassment by men, while women are unacceptable for further intercourse,” she said. This is beneficial for both men and women, because “men do not have to waste time identifying women, and women can reduce harassment by men.”

I think we have an important lesson here, but I cannot lay my finger on it.


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