Insect Deploys Anti-Antiaphrodisiac

Female plant bugs produce a compound to counter males’ attempts to render the females unattractive to other mates.

By | October 1, 2017

HOW YOU DOIN’?: A male L. hesperus (right) uses its antennae to determine a female’s sexual maturity and mating status.COLIN BRENT

C.S. Brent et al., “An insect anti-antiaphrodisiac,” eLife, 6:e24063, 2017.

Many male insects deploy “mate-guarding” chemicals that render females unattractive to other males for some time after copulation. The technique gives males’ sperm a competitive edge, but can disadvantage females if the effect lasts too long.

In a first, Colin Brent of the US Department of Agriculture’s Arid Land Agricultural Research Center and colleagues stumbled on a female means of fighting back. In the western tarnished plant bug (Lygus hesperus), males’ seminal fluid contains antiaphrodisiac pheromones. Over several days or weeks, females convert one of those compounds to geranylgeraniol, which counteracts the antiaphrodisiacs to reveal that she may, in fact, be ready to mate again. “[They’re] basically competing signals,” Brent says.

“This means that the female bugs are not just passive subjects, but they can actively influence the communication and mating system,” Sandra Steiger of Ulm University who was not involved in the study tells The Scientist in an email. Females continue to produce eggs throughout their lives, so reducing the time between new mates may enable them to have genetically more-diverse offspring, Brent says.

Female Drosophila had been known to eject an antiaphrodisiac compound from her reproductive tract, but this is the first known instance of an insect countering such a pheromone with a signal of her own. The study’s authors predict that more anti-antiaphrodisiacs will be found now that researchers know to look for them. “We need to deepen our understanding of the female part” in post-mating chemical communications, says Steiger.

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You



Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo


Avatar of: Curculio


Posts: 60

October 26, 2017

I expect that the general finding down the road will be that the longer the female lives post-copulation, the more likely the anti-aphrodisiac will be removed or otherwise changed to allow the female to regain some fitness.

Popular Now

  1. 2017 Top 10 Innovations
    Features 2017 Top 10 Innovations

    From single-cell analysis to whole-genome sequencing, this year’s best new products shine on many levels.

  2. Thousands of Mutations Accumulate in the Human Brain Over a Lifetime
  3. Antiviral Immunotherapy Comes of Age
    News Analysis Antiviral Immunotherapy Comes of Age

    T-cell therapies are not just for cancer. Researchers are also advancing immunotherapy methods to protect bone marrow transplant patients from viral infections. 

  4. The Rising Research Profile of 23andMe
    News Analysis The Rising Research Profile of 23andMe

    An exploration of the genetics of earlobe attachment is just the latest collaborative research project to come out of the personal genetic testing company.