Simultaneously hermaphroditic shrimp use lipophilic cuticular hydrocarbons as contact sex pheromones
Terschak, John A.
Harley, Maggy A.
Hardege, Jörg D.
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Successful mating is essentially a consequence of making the right choices at the correct time. Animals use specific strategies to gain information about a potential mate, which is then applied to decision-making processes. Amongst the many informative signals, odor cues such as sex pheromones play important ecological roles in coordinating mating behavior, enabling mate and kin recognition, qualifying mate choice, and preventing gene exchange among individuals from different populations and species. Despite overwhelming behavioral evidence, the chemical identity of most cues used in aquatic organisms remains unknown and their impact and omnipresence have not been fully recognized. In many crustaceans, including lobsters and shrimps, reproduction happens through a cascade of events ranging from initial attraction to formation of a mating pair eventually leading to mating. We examined the hypothesis that contact pheromones on the female body surface of the hermaphroditic shrimp Lysmata boggessi are of lipophilic nature, and resemble insect cuticular hydrocarbon contact cues. Via chemical analyses and behavioural assays, we show that newly molted euhermaphrodite-phase shrimp contain a bouquet of odor compounds. Of these, (Z)-9-octadecenamide is the key odor with hexadecanamide and methyl linoleate enhancing the bioactivity of the pheromone blend. Our results show that in aquatic systems lipophilic, cuticular hydrocarbon contact sex pheromones exist; this raises questions on how hydrocarbon contact signals evolved and how widespread these are in the marine environment.