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Ready for mating at the right time
Date:8/29/2014

This news release is available in German.

The exchange of chemical signals between organisms is considered the oldest form of communication. Acting as messenger molecules, pheromones regulate social interactions between conspecifics, for example, the sexual attraction between males and females. Fish rely on pheromones to trigger social responses and to coordinate reproductive behavior in males and females. Scientists at the Marine Science Center at the University of the Algarve in Faro, Portugal, and at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, have now identified such a signal molecule in the urine of male Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus): this pheromone boosts hormone production and accelerates oocyte maturation in reproductive females. Hence, the Mozambique tilapia is one of the first fish species in which the chemical structure of a pheromone has been identified and the biological basis of its activity elucidated. (Current Biology, August 21, 2014, doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014. 07.049)

The social behavior of Mozambique tilapias (Oreochromis mossambicus) native to southern Africa is very complex. The strict hierarchic ranking among males is fought out in so-called courtship arenas. With their mouths, male tilapias make excavations in the sand in the middle of an arena with the aim of attracting females to spawn in these nests. At the same time, they act aggressively to keep other males away. Dominant males have been observed to urinate more often and squirt larger quantities of urine in the water during fights compared to their subordinate rivals. The urine contains pheromones that reduce aggressive behavior in other males. The compounds also lure females to the nest and modify their hormonal status by accelerating oocy
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Contact: Dr. Bernd Schneider
schneider@ice.mpg.de
49-364-157-1600
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Source:Eurekalert  

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