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Olfaction in a viscous environment: the “color” of sexual smells in Temora longicornis

Hinow, Peter, Strickler, J. Rudi, Yen, Jeannette
Die Naturwissenschaften 2017 v.104 no.5-6 pp. 46
Copepoda, females, insects, males, mathematical models, odor compounds, sex pheromones, smell, swimming, trail pheromones
We investigate chemical aspects of mating in the marine copepod Temora longicornis (Copepoda, Calanoidea). Our emphasis is the female pheromone signaling in form of well-defined trails for males to follow, observed in Doall et al. (Phil Trans R Soc Lond B 353:681–689, 1998). The viscous environment and the properties of the odorants play important roles as the spread of the pheromone trail limits the time during which it is useful for tracing. A key observation from our earlier work is the ability of a searching male to detect the direction of the female and to correct its swimming direction if necessary. We propose a simple mathematical model for the spread of a pheromone from a moving source and carry out numerical simulations of two possible detection mechanisms. We find that a searching agent that is capable to detect a ratio outperforms a searcher that depends on the gradient of a single compound. This suggests that copepod sex pheromones consist of blends of chemical compounds, and that a ratio detection mechanism similar to that in airborne insects is at work.