About this Research Topic
Animals require reliable sensory cues in order to optimize their behavioral decisions. Some of these decisions may directly impact an animal’s fitness. Therefore, most species require reliable detection of ecologically relevant stimuli through evolved sensitive sensory systems. Among these, the olfactory and gustatory systems are dedicated to the perception of ecologically relevant chemicals. Semiochemicals – chemicals that carry a message – are used by most animals in modulating their behaviors. For instance, through either smell or taste, it is often possible to distinguish suitable and nutritious from unpalatable and noxious foods. Being able to select the former and avoid the latter is crucial for survival and requires dedicated sensory receptors mediating decision-based behaviors.
Animals do not only use chemicals to find food- many use chemicals to find a suitable mate. Pheromones are semiochemicals produced by an individual that are necessary for intraspecific communication. The exact composition, concentration, and ratio of the produced pheromone blend may also vary depending on the physiological state of an animal (age, nutritional status, mating state, etc.). Pheromones, therefore, provide significant information about the emitter, playing a critical role in mate selection and reproductive isolation. The evolution of the pheromone blend and its sensory perception may contribute to speciation and ultimately to novel niche acquisition.
The context in which pheromones are perceived is also important. For example, in some moth species, the odorant background of a calling female near a host plant shapes the behavioral response of the male. In localizing these environments, females often use semiochemicals released by these hosts to direct either feeding or oviposition behaviors towards specific substrates, plants, fruits, or other animals. Integrating pheromones with environmental cues therefore demonstrates the potential for increased fitness by selecting a mate based on a suitable environment for progeny survival.
In recent years, the emergence of new technologies has contributed to significant progress in the field of chemical ecology. For example, the maturation of heterologous assays has expanded our knowledge about the function of many chemosensory receptors. Moreover, the use of increasingly sophisticated computational approaches, as well as the rapidly expanding wealth of genetic information and gene-editing technologies, such as CRISPR/Cas9, have led to the functional characterization of the specific roles of genes in the production and perception of semiochemicals in non-model organisms. The chemical ecology of host and mate selection is a topic at the boundary between different fields. It stimulates the interest of people working in chemistry, sensory ecology, behavioral sciences, evolution and neurophysiology among others, which therefore facilitates interdisciplinary research approaches. The aim of this Research Topic is to gather recent findings on all these different aspects, from the identification of semiochemicals and their biosynthesis pathway to the neurophysiological basis of their perception and their behavioral consequences. Both Original Research and Reviews on all kinds of organisms are welcome.
Keywords: Pheromones, kairomones, chemosensory perception, semiochemical biosynthesis, behavior
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