The 2023 study ‘Ozone exposure disrupts insect sexual communication‘ found that ozone can oxidize all male-specific pheromones, while the female acceptance of ozone-exposed males is significantly delayed. Additional, the ozone-exposed males also exhibit significant more interest in the same sex.
The new study looked how air pollution is having an unbelievable effect on flies, altering how they attract one another and mate.
MPG: A research team at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, demonstrates that increased levels of ozone resulting from anthropogenic air pollution can degrade insect sex pheromones, which are crucial mating signals, and thus prevent successful reproduction.
The oxidizing effect of ozone causes the carbon-carbon double bonds found in the molecules of many insect pheromones to break down. Therefore, the specific chemical mating signal is rendered dysfunctional.
Most remarkably, the disrupted sexual communication also led to male flies exhibiting unusual mating behavior towards ozonated males of their own species.
Eliot Engelmaier from Yahoo interviewed the study authors.
Yahoo News: “We could explain that males started courting each other after a short ozone exposure because they obviously could not distinguish ozonated males from females,” said researchers Nanji Jiang and Markus Knaden. “However, we had not thought about this before. Therefore, we were quite puzzled by the behavior of the ozone-exposed males, which lined up in long courtship chains.”
The new discovery about another dangerous impact from elevated ozone pollution also affects other species.
Why is this important?
The effects of this news are substantial. It is not just flies that are affected –– ozone is thought to affect the patterns of many insects.
Pheromone communication is not only used for mating. It also helps insects identify members of the same species and their communities, such as bee hives, wasp nests, and ant colonies. Nothing sounds more chaotic than a bunch of ants, bees, and wasps confused and out of place.
The chaos doesn’t stop there –– insects such as bees and butterflies are vital pollinators. A decrease in pheromones equals a decline in reproduction and population. The effects could be detrimental, as 80% of our crops require insect pollinators.
Of course there is a solution!
What can I do to help prevent this?
According to Bill Hansson, head of the Evolutionary Neuroethology Department and co-founder of the Max Planck Center Next Generation Insect Chemical Ecology, “the only solution to this dilemma is to immediately reduce pollutants in the atmosphere.”
If you needed another reason to switch to an electric vehicle and to power your home with clean tech, here it is!