The evolution of female sex pheromones

Ally R. Harari, Hadass Steinitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations

Abstract

The role of female sex pheromones in natural selection, particularly as a means for species recognition to avoid the generation of hybrid offspring with low fitness, has been widely explored and is generally accepted by scholars. However, the significance of sex pheromones in shaping mate choice (sexual selection) and in competition over breeding resources (social selection) has been largely ignored. The effect of sexual selection on sex pheromones as a sexually dimorphic signaling trait has been discounted because the amount of pheromone released by females is typically minute, while the role of sex pheromones in competition over breeding resources (other than mates) has not yet been considered. As a result of natural selection, variation in sex pheromones among females is expected to be low, and males are not expected to choose their mates among pheromone-releasing conspecific females. Sexual selection, on the other hand, should drive the increase in pheromone variance among females, and males are expected to choose females based on this variation. Moreover, social selection resulting from more general social interactions, for example competition among females for breeding sites and food, should also promote variance among female sex pheromones. Here, we review the current evidence for each of the three selection processes acting on sex pheromones of female moths as an advertising trait. We suggest that the three selection types are not mutually exclusive but rather act together to promote different fitness components in diverse ecological situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-578
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Zoology
Volume59
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Competition
  • Mate choice
  • Natural selection
  • Sex pheromone
  • Sexual selection
  • Social selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

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