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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

The Scent of the Fly

Becher, Paul G.; Lebreton, Sebastien; Wallin, Erika A.; Hedenstrom, Erik; Borrero, Felipe; Bengtsson, Marie; Joerger, Volker; Witzgall, Peter


(Z)-4-undecenal (Z4-11Al) is the volatile pheromone produced by females of the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster. Female flies emit Z4-11Al for species-specific communication and mate-finding. A sensory panel finds that synthetic Z4-11Al has a characteristic flavour, which can be perceived even at the small amounts produced by a single female fly. Since only females produce Z4-11Al, and not males, we can reliably distinguish between single D. melanogaster males and females, according to their scent. Females release Z4-11Al at 2.4 ng/h and we readily sense 1 ng synthetic Z4-11Al in a glass of wine (0.03 nmol/L), while a tenfold concentration is perceived as a loud off-flavour. This corroborates the observation that a glass of wine is spoilt by a single D. melanogaster fly falling into it, which we here show is caused by Z4-11Al. The biological role of Z4-11Al or structurally related aldehydes in humans and the basis for this semiochemical convergence remains yet unclear.


Pheromone; Semiochemical; Odorant; Off-flavour; Olfaction; Wine; Drosophila melanogaster

Published in

Journal of Chemical Ecology
2018, Volume: 44, number: 5, pages: 431-435 Publisher: SPRINGER