20328 Chemical Communication in Animals

Credits: 3 advanced seminar credits in Life Sciences or in Chemistry

Prerequisites: 36 credits in the Sciences, including General Biology I + General Biology II,1 Cell Structure and Function (single-semester format or year-long format), and one of the following: Organic Chemistry or Organic Chemistry for Biology Students. Students must also fulfill all English requirements and take bibliographic instruction in the Library.

Recommended: Biochemistry II: Carbohydrates, Lipids, Nucleic Acids; Insects;2 Vertebrates; Selected Topics in Animal Behavior; Evolution

The course, based on Pheromones and Animal Behaviour: Communication by Smell and Taste, by T.D. Wyatt (Cambridge University Press, 2003), was developed by Sarah Weissenberg and Victoria Soroker.

Chemical communication is one of the most ancient channels of communication between living organisms (animals and plants). Through such communication, information is transmitted using chemical signals. The course provides extensive background on the role of chemicals in conveying of a variety of messages in inter- and intra-specific communication. Examples from a wide range of organisms, including humans, are discussed.

Topics: Types of chemical messages (semiochemicals, pheromones, allomones, etc.); Secretory organs for chemical messages; Research tools methods of isolation and identification of semiochemicals; Structure and function of chemical messages message chemistry, specificity and distribution; Orientation of the receiver; Structure and function of chemical sense organs antennae in insects, the main olfactory system and vomeronasal organs in vertebrates. Perception and transduction of chemical messages and their actions; The evolution of chemical communication; Commercial applications of chemical cues.

Students write a seminar paper based on the textbook and additional articles dealing with one of the topics discussed in the course, and present the paper orally.


1or Introduction to Life Sciences (03101), which is no longer offered, and either Insects (20220) or Vertebrates (20104)

2The material taught in Insects (20220) is necessary for understanding this course.