MRE Symonds, MA Elgar (2004) The mode of pheromone evolution: evidence from bark beetles. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 271: 839-846.
What’s it about?
We showed that the aggregation pheromone composition of closely related species of bark beetles differs substantially, indicated that the mode of evolution is characterised by ‘saltational’ shifts in composition at speciation events
What’s the story behind it?
The first paper where we married phylogenetic comparative approaches with pheromone data to analyse how these signals evolve and generate interspecific diversity in chemical composition: a recurring theme in much of my research. The original idea was based on a suggestion by Mark that I try and do a comparative analysis using a database of pheromone composition compiled by an old student of his (but never analysed). In retrospect the whole thing was immensely like staggering and flailing about in a darkened room – I knew very little about pheromones or insects, but it always seemed to me that there was a real opportunity to try and apply the same kind of analytical approaches that evolutionary ecologists were using to analyse other visual and auditory signals, but to do so with chemical signals. The results ended up fitting nicely with theoretical predictions to do with the evolution of species-specific signals used in mate attraction