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About this Research Topic

Abstract Submission Deadline 31 January 2023
Manuscript Submission Deadline 31 May 2023

Living organisms perceive chemical information that is useful to find food and mates, and to avoid dangers, by using a vast variety of molecular, anatomical, and neurophysiological systems. There is a widespread tendency in the current scientific literature, however, to adapt data coming from the study of chemical communication in nature to modes and mechanisms specific to humans, thus anthropomorphizing every form of communication involving chemical cues, and relating it to the typical human sensory systems and to the environment in which man lives. As we argued in a recent position paper (https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/720097), the above biases have fostered the neglect of key processes shaping ecological and evolutionary scenarios, profoundly hampering our research efforts for a better understanding of the evolution of chemical communication, especially during the transition from aquatic to terrestrial life, and from single-cell to multicellular organisms.

The main goal we would like to achieve in this Research Topic is to bring out the many different modes of chemical communication employed by living organisms in a variety of ecological contexts, beyond simplistic and anthropomorphic discriminations between some chemical senses, including taste and smell. All animals, even those lacking nose or tongue, and even those devoid of a nervous system, perceive chemical signals that are crucial for their survival and reproduction. This happens both on land and in aquatic environments where chemical signals can diffuse differently according to their physicochemical properties. Nonetheless, there is a prevalent tendency in the relevant literature to misrepresent natural conditions, extending the traditional human-like perspective on chemical communications to all forms of life, including aquatic and/or unicellular organisms. We, therefore, believe that it is urgent to create the appropriate context to definitively clarify how an anthropomorphic point of view can hinder a global, complex, and satisfying perspective on the evolution of chemosensation, and how much it does not help to explain the role of chemical communication in the structuring of ecological systems.

With this Research Topic, we aim to provide support to a nuanced, interconnected, and complex view of the processes by which organisms detect and respond to chemical stimuli in their environments, paving the way for a satisfactory narrative on the gradual evolution of chemical communication. We will welcome manuscripts highlighting how the great variety of molecular, anatomical, and physiological mechanisms involved in chemical communication cannot be classified based on what happens in the human species alone, as well as those integrating the different research approaches and protocols into a comprehensive scientific framework on chemosensation.

Keywords: chemical communication, chemical senses, taste, smell, chemical ecology, evolutionary ecology, anthropomorphic biases


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Living organisms perceive chemical information that is useful to find food and mates, and to avoid dangers, by using a vast variety of molecular, anatomical, and neurophysiological systems. There is a widespread tendency in the current scientific literature, however, to adapt data coming from the study of chemical communication in nature to modes and mechanisms specific to humans, thus anthropomorphizing every form of communication involving chemical cues, and relating it to the typical human sensory systems and to the environment in which man lives. As we argued in a recent position paper (https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/720097), the above biases have fostered the neglect of key processes shaping ecological and evolutionary scenarios, profoundly hampering our research efforts for a better understanding of the evolution of chemical communication, especially during the transition from aquatic to terrestrial life, and from single-cell to multicellular organisms.

The main goal we would like to achieve in this Research Topic is to bring out the many different modes of chemical communication employed by living organisms in a variety of ecological contexts, beyond simplistic and anthropomorphic discriminations between some chemical senses, including taste and smell. All animals, even those lacking nose or tongue, and even those devoid of a nervous system, perceive chemical signals that are crucial for their survival and reproduction. This happens both on land and in aquatic environments where chemical signals can diffuse differently according to their physicochemical properties. Nonetheless, there is a prevalent tendency in the relevant literature to misrepresent natural conditions, extending the traditional human-like perspective on chemical communications to all forms of life, including aquatic and/or unicellular organisms. We, therefore, believe that it is urgent to create the appropriate context to definitively clarify how an anthropomorphic point of view can hinder a global, complex, and satisfying perspective on the evolution of chemosensation, and how much it does not help to explain the role of chemical communication in the structuring of ecological systems.

With this Research Topic, we aim to provide support to a nuanced, interconnected, and complex view of the processes by which organisms detect and respond to chemical stimuli in their environments, paving the way for a satisfactory narrative on the gradual evolution of chemical communication. We will welcome manuscripts highlighting how the great variety of molecular, anatomical, and physiological mechanisms involved in chemical communication cannot be classified based on what happens in the human species alone, as well as those integrating the different research approaches and protocols into a comprehensive scientific framework on chemosensation.

Keywords: chemical communication, chemical senses, taste, smell, chemical ecology, evolutionary ecology, anthropomorphic biases


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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