Pheromones: More Indicator Than Aphrodisiac

Oct 14, 2009 • News, Research

Scientists studying fruit flies discovered that the elimination of pheromones in these makes the insects attractive to normal male fruit flies–regardless of their sex–as well as other species of fruit fly.

This research by the team at the University of Toronto indicates that pheromones are not so much an aphrodisiac as they are part of a biological language used in mating that enables members to recognize their own species and make the distinction between males and females.

“The default [behavior] for males is to go for it,” one of the researchers, Joel Levine told CBC News. “But while males are turned on by the absence of hydrocarbons [i.e., pheromones], females are not at all interested in males who lack the hydrocarbons.”

(Female fruit flies, it should be mentioned, are always attracted to male fruit flies that do produce pheromones.)

Other weird behavior caused by lack of pheromones? The males attempted to copulate with each other’s heads. Normal sexual behaviour resumed when the fruit flies that had been stripped of their pheromone-producing abilities were treated with a single synthetic pheromone.

Thumbnail image by Max Westby. Information from CBC News.