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Some personal recollections of pheromone research in Australia in the 1970s

Some personal recollections of pheromone research in Australia in the 1970s

Rothschild, George H.L. (2014) Some personal recollections of pheromone research in Australia in the 1970s. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 40 (4). pp. 311-312. ISSN 0098-0331 (Print), 1573-1561 (Online) (doi:

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The Journal of Chemical Ecology, particularly in its early years was devoted almost exclusively to research on pheromones. In the 1970s, considerable advances were being made in understanding the mechanisms underlying pheromone-mediated behavior, particularly in laboratory environments (e.g. R.J. Bartell at CSIRO Australia), as well as the chemical characterization of pheromones and recognizing the importance of minor components. However, there was little ecologically-based research at that time on the impacts of modifying pheromone-mediated behavior on the population dynamics of target pests, particularly in terms of validating the quantitative contributions of mating disruption or mass trapping to pest abundance within and between seasons. Among several reasons for this was that few sex pheromones of lepidopteran pests had been characterized and synthesised. However, in 1969, Wendell Roelofs published the identity of the main component of the female sex pheromone of a major moth pest with pan-continental distribution, the oriental fruit moth (OFM: Cydia (Grapholitha) molesta (Busck)), as cis-8 dodecenyl acetate, recognizing from field assays that there were probably also uncharacterized secondary components. This breakthrough enabled the group at CSIRO Australia to begin larger scale field work, although there were initially challenges in getting sufficient quantities of synthetic pheromone. As an aside, there was evidence from early CSIRO field tests that the far cheaper saturated analogue, dodecyl acetate, inhibited males from being attracted to live females or synthetic pheromone sources, but when extremely high background doses were released in a larger field trial, trap captures of males actually went up—all reflecting the lack of understanding of underlying mechanisms. Later research revealed that dodecyl acetate is a component of the female pheromone blend.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: ecology, biochemistry, entomology, biological microscopy, agriculture
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2016 13:49

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