The evolution of hormonal sex pheromones in teleost fish: poor correlation between the pattern of steroid release by goldfish and olfactory sensitivity suggests that these cues evolved as a result of chemical spying rather than signal specialization

P. W. SØRENSEN, A. P. SCOTT

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations

Abstract

It is becoming increasingly evident that many teleost fish use hormones and their metabolites as sex pheromones. Although hormonal pheromone systems of several species of fish have now been characterized, that of the goldfish is the best understood. Reproductively–active female goldfish sequentially release derivatives of three steroidal hormones and two prostaglandins which have specific and potent actions on the goldfish olfactory sense and subsequently conspecific reproductive behaviour and physiology. Three goldfish hormonal pheromones are unmodified sex hormones which are also found in the blood of many other species offish and are therefore unlikely to be species–specific. This scenario evokes two related questions. First, how did these systems evolve? Second, do hormonal pheromones represent specialized signals used for communication or rather simple metabolites which fish have evolved the ability to detect because of their intrinsic meaning (‘spying’)? Here we review hormonal pheromone function in fish and then describe a study of the goldfish which tests whether hormonal pheromones are specialized communicatory signals by comparing the profile of steroids released by goldfish with their olfactory responsiveness to these compounds. Little correlation between signal production and detection was found and we conclude that the goldfish hormonal pheromone system most likely exemplifies spying.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-205
Number of pages15
JournalActa Physiologica Scandinavica
Volume152
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1994

Keywords

  • communication
  • evolution
  • goldfish
  • hormone
  • metabolism
  • olfaction
  • pheromone
  • steroid

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