Speakers - Joachim Ruther

Type of the Presentation: Plenary Lecture




Joachim Ruther


Institute for Zoology, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstraße 53, 93053 Regensburg, Germany


Correspondence: Joachim.ruther@ur.de


The use of chemical information is indispensable for insects. They use sex pheromones for the attraction of potential mates from a distance, for mate recognition at close range and for the elicitation of receptivity during courtship. For reliable communication, however, these chemical signals need to be species specific. Hence, speciation is typically accompanied by a diversification of chemical signals. During the past years, the evolution of insect pheromones has increasingly come into the focus of chemoecological research with three questions being of particular interest. (1) What are the prerequisites for certain natural products to become informative and eventually to evolve into pheromones? (2) Why and how diversify pheromone signals? (3) What are the underlying genetic and biochemical mechanisms?

Parasitic wasps have proven to be excellent model organisms to study these questions. I will introduce three model systems to demonstrate how natural products serving primarily as defense compounds1 or desiccation barrier2 have evolved into species specific sex pheromones. Using the parasitic wasp genus Nasonia, I will furthermore demonstrate how a novel chemical signal can evolve from a preexisting pheromone component by simple enzymatic modification thus enabling prezygotic isolation of closely related species3-5.  




1. Weiss, I. et al. Nat. Commun. 4, 2767, 2013.

2. Kühbandner, S. et al. J. Exp. Biol. 215, 2471, 2012.

3. Niehuis, O. et al. Nature 494, 345, 2013.

4. Ruther, J et al. PLoS ONE 9, e89214, 2014.

5. Ruther, J. et al. Sci. Rep. 6, 34697, 2016.