How do increased levels of ozone affect pheromone communication in different Drosophila species?

Insect sexual communication often relies upon olfactory signals, the so-called sex pheromones. However, during the Anthropocene levels of oxidizing pollutants such as O3 and NOx in the atmosphere are increasing and both pollutants potentially oxidize insect pheromones. In the nGICE program, we are interested in how this might affect pheromone communication in insects. To study this, we will first test courtship behavior of multiple Drosophila species under different ozone levels. In a second step we will chemically analyze the pheromones of these species before and after exposure to elevated levels of ozone by using thermal-desorption-unit-coupled gas chromatography mass spectrometry (TDU GC-MS) and will check, whether potentially degraded pheromones still become detected by the pheromone-sensing olfactory sensory neurons of the flies.

We hypothesize that increased levels of ozone affect the sexual communication in Drosophila in two ways: degraded pheromones might first result in lower levels of mating success within a population of a given species and second in the breakdown of mating barriers between closely related species.

Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr. Nan-Ji Jiang (MPI-CE)

Supervision: Dr. Markus Knaden (MPI-CE), Dr. Bill S. Hansson (MPI-CE) and Dr. Christer Löfstedt (LU)  


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