MRE Symonds, B Wertheim (2005) The mode of evolution of aggregation pheromones in Drosophila species. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 18: 1253-1263.

What’s it about?

We showed that, in contrast to species-specific mating signals used by bark beetles, Drosophila aggregation pheromones have evolved via gradual changes in composition at speciation events. There’s no disadvantage (and indeed an advantage) to multi-species aggregations. Consequently it appears that there has not been strong selection promoting divergence in these signals.

What’s the story behind it?

When I was at the 2003 European Society for Evolutionary Biology conference in Leeds, I presented a poster covering my work on evolution of aggregation pheromones in bark beetles (subsequently published). One of the visitors to my poster was Bregje Wertheim, who had conveniently done her PhD on Drosophila aggregation pheromones. She warily read my poster and said “I bet if you did this analysis with Drosophila you’d get a different result”. She had all the data, I had the analysis sorted – the paper almost wrote itself. A very satisfying collaboration, and a great example of how any form of presentation or discussion at conferences can genuinely bear collaborative fruit.

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