Animals and plants use chemical signals to obtain information about their environment, and to communicate with each other. The Chemical Ecology Group investigates this chemical language.
Our main areas of research concern sexual communication with pheromones (a pheromone is a chemical messenger used by members of the same species), insect-plant communication, and how the insect central nervous system produces a behavioural response upon perception of such odour stimuli.
Pheromone-mediated sexual communication
Many insects use pheromones to find sex partners. Often, females release an odour bouquet that is perceived by the male. The male flies upwind into the scented wind to find the female. We study how pheromone communication works and how this knowledge can be used to manipulate and control insects.
Most insects are herbivores and depend on their host plants for reproduction. Many insects have been become serious pests of cultivated plants. Gravid females use plant volatile compounds to recognize and locate suitable plants. Odours from the “wrong” plant can have a deterrent effect. Insect behaviour towards the host plant and particularly host-finding behaviour is a current research challenge. The knowledge of behaviourally active plant volatiles can be used directly for insect control, but also in plant breeding for resistance.
The insect olfactory system
Recognition and location of relevant pheromone and plant stimuli against a noisy background composed of thousands of other compounds is a complex task. In addition, it is usally blends of compounds, instead of single compounds, that convey specificity. How the olfactory system works, from peripheral antennal perception to central nervous encoding of these signals is our third main line of research.
Our research is funded from the following sources:Swedish Research Council (VR)