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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Pheromone Component Patterns of Moth Evolution Revealed by Computer Analysis of the Pherolist

Author
item Byers, John

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 31, 2005
Publication Date: March 1, 2006
Citation: Byers, J.A. 2006. Pheromone component patterns of moth evolution revealed by computer analysis of the pherolist. Journal of Animal Ecology 75:399-407.

Interpretive Summary: he Pherolist Internet site (www-pherolist.slu.se/pherolist.php) with over 500 web pages on moth pheromone components reported in the literature was downloaded (June 2002) and information on chemicals, families, and species compiled into a computer database by a BASIC program. Another BASIC program analyzed the 2931 combinations of 377 unique chemical names of purported sex pheromone attractants of 1572 species in 619 genera and 49 families of the database in order to reveal patterns of chemical use. The names were analyzed for aliphatic chain length, unsaturation position characteristics (even or odd, E or Z geometric configuration, and conjugated or isolated), and functional groups (aldehyde, alcohol, acetate ester, epoxide, methyl-branched, and hydrocarbon). The number of times (instances) such combinations are used by species and families were counted as well as the number of species using various component attributes. Briefly, the analyses revealed that the distribution of components per pheromone blend in species ranged from 1 to 8 components (45% species with one component, 36% with two, 12% three, 5% four, 1% five, /= six). No relationship was revealed between the average number of components per species in a family and the number of species in the family, although pooling the four largest families gave a mean of 1.96 components/species that was significantly higher than the mean of the next 14 smaller families (1.63). The number of components per family is a curvilinear square root function of the number of species per family. This suggests that there is less selection pressure on species in larger families to evolve new structures because these species should be more likely to mutate to use a blend of existing components in the family in order to evolve a unique communication channel. The biosynthesis of moth components is discussed in relation to use patterns of aldehydes, alcohols, acetate esters, hydrocarbons, epoxides, and various unsaturated even/odd positions and Z- and E-configurations with regard to chain lengths.

Technical Abstract: The Pherolist Internet site (www-pherolist.slu.se/pherolist.php) with over 500 web pages on moth pheromone components reported in the literature was downloaded (June 2002) and information on chemicals, families, and species compiled into a computer database by a BASIC program. Another BASIC program analyzed the 2931 combinations of 377 unique chemical names of purported sex pheromone attractants of 1572 species in 619 genera and 49 families of the database in order to reveal patterns of chemical use. The names were analyzed for aliphatic chain length, unsaturation position characteristics (even or odd, E or Z geometric configuration, and conjugated or isolated), and functional groups (aldehyde, alcohol, acetate ester, epoxide, methyl-branched, and hydrocarbon). The number of times (instances) such combinations are used by species and families were counted as well as the number of species using various component attributes. Briefly, the analyses revealed that the distribution of components per pheromone blend in species ranged from 1 to 8 components (45% species with one component, 36% with two, 12% three, 5% four, 1% five, </= 0.5% for >/= six). No relationship was revealed between the average number of components per species in a family and the number of species in the family, although pooling the four largest families gave a mean of 1.96 components/species that was significantly higher than the mean of the next 14 smaller families (1.63). The number of components per family is a curvilinear square root function of the number of species per family. This suggests that there is less selection pressure on species in larger families to evolve new structures because these species should be more likely to mutate to use a blend of existing components in the family in order to evolve a unique communication channel. The biosynthesis of moth components is discussed in relation to use patterns of aldehydes, alcohols, acetate esters, hydrocarbons, epoxides, and various unsaturated even/odd positions and Z- and E-configurations with regard to chain lengths.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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