The scent of inbreeding: a male sex pheromone betrays inbred males

E. van Bergen, P.M. Brakefield, S. Heuskin, B.J. Zwaan, C.M. Nieberding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Inbreeding depression results from mating among genetically related individuals and impairs reproductive success. The decrease in male mating success is usually attributed to an impact on multiple fitness-related traits that reduce the general condition of inbred males. Here, we find that the production of the male sex pheromone is reduced significantly by inbreeding in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana. Other traits indicative of the general condition, including flight performance, are also negatively affected in male butterflies by inbreeding. Yet, we unambiguously show that only the production of male pheromones affects mating success. Thus, this pheromone signal informs females about the inbreeding status of their mating partners. We also identify the specific chemical component (hexadecanal) probably responsible for the decrease in male mating success. Our results advocate giving increased attention to olfactory communication as a major causal factor of mate-choice decisions and sexual selection
Original languageEnglish
Article number20130102
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society. B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1758
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • butterfly bicyclus-anynana
  • mate-choice
  • drosophila-melanogaster
  • male courtship
  • genetic load
  • teleogryllus-commodus
  • morphological traits
  • life-history
  • depression
  • heterozygosity


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