Signals Unseen

I recently came across an article about pheromones. A pheromone is a molecule or specific mix of molecules that makes other members of the same species change their behavior or development. This concept was fascinating to me, because it had nothing to do with sight. It was unconscious signals that we could not control. There were many examples throughout the entire article, which is linked down below, so I’ll only share my favorites.

The first example used is quite interesting, as it explains an experiment done in the 19th century. A French scientist named Jean-Henri Fabre put a female moth in a cage with gauze type walls. Later that night, many male moths of the same species came into the house via a window.  The scientist then discovered that the moths were only attracted if the moth was not contained in anything tightly sealed. This meant it was not sight, touch, or taste. It could have been smell or sound. However, moths make little noise, if any, and so it was concluded to be smell. In 1959, the male attractant that was used finally had a name: bombykol.

Another example I found intriguing was a squid fight. Male squids would touch another squid’s fertilized eggs and often start to fight another squid. When given eggs in a container as part of an experiment, the squids touched the material surrounding the eggs, and did not receive any subliminal chemical message. When a synthetic version of the hypothesized chemical was put on the outside of the material, the squids began fighting again. Scientists concluded that the squids sense something on the eggs that tells them there might be other females ready to mate.

Other examples mentioned were:

  • Ants: a scent that helps other ants determine whether there is food or not
  • Aphids: a scent to tell other aphids to fly away.
  • Orchids: Some orchids create a smell that entices hornets, despite their being no pollen to take for food. Hornets have a pheromone that alerts them if any bees are nearby. The orchid releases a chemical very similar to the bees, and the hornets attack the flowers, taking the pollen with it.

There were other examples, but those were the ones that got me thinking. Isn’t it crazy how something you cannot see or consciously observe can control your actions? I think I’ll leave you with that, and the link, of course!

So Ta Ta for now and hope to see your chemical reaction soon!


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