Pheromones and Behavior

  • Tristram D. Wyatt


Chemical communication is widely used by crustaceans, for example, in sexual interactions, larval release, and planktonic settlement. However, we know the identity of very few of the molecules involved. In this chapter, I introduce pheromones and contrast them with signature mixtures. Pheromones are molecules that are evolved signals, in defined ratios in the case of multiple component pheromones, which are emitted by an individual and received by a second individual of the same species, in which they cause a specific reaction, for example, a stereotyped behavior or a developmental process. Signature mixtures are variable chemical mixtures (a subset of the molecules in an animal’s chemical profile) learned by other conspecifics and used to recognize an organism as an individual (e.g., lobsters, mammals) or as a member of a particular social group such as a family, clan, or colony (e.g., mammals, desert woodlouse Hemilepistus reaumuri, ants, bees). A key difference between pheromones and signature mixtures is that in all taxa so far investigated it seems that signature mixtures need to be learnt (unlike most pheromones). These signature mixtures may be best thought of as cues. Pheromones evolve from molecules which give a selective advantage to the receiver and signaler. The evolution of pheromones is facilitated by the combinatorial basis of the olfactory system found in crustaceans and other animals. In crustaceans, some pheromones are also detected by the distributed chemosensory system. Crustaceans have great potential as model organisms for chemical communication research, in particular now that the Daphnia pulex genome has been sequenced.


Pheromone Component Chemical Communication Moth Species Olfactory Lobe Signature Mixture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I thank the late Martin Birch for his inspiring lead on insect pheromones, Oxford University Continuing Education (in particular Dr G.P. Thomas) and Zoology Departments for supporting me over many years, and the editors and chapter referees for their suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyOxfordUK

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