Side-by-side secretion of Late Palaeozoic diverged courtship pheromones in an aquatic salamander
Van Bocxlaer, Ines × Treer, Dag Maex, Margo Vandebergh, Wim Janssenswillen, Sunita Stegen, Gwij Kok, Philippe Willaert, Bert Matthijs, Severine Martens, Erik Mortier, Anneleen de Greve, Henri Proost, Paul Bossuyt, Franky #
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Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences vol:282 issue:1803 pages:20142960
Males of the advanced salamanders (Salamandroidea) attain internal fertilization without a copulatory organ by depositing a spermatophore on the substrate in the environment, which females subsequently take up with their cloaca. The aquatically reproducing modern Eurasian newts (Salamandridae) have taken this to extremes, because most species do not display close physical contact during courtship, but instead largely rely on females following the male track at spermatophore deposition. Although pheromones have been widely assumed to represent an important aspect of male courtship, molecules able to induce the female following behaviour that is the prelude for successful insemination have not yet been identified. Here, we show that uncleaved sodefrin precursor-like factor (SPF) protein pheromones are sufficient to elicit such behaviour in female palmate newts (Lissotriton helveticus). Combined transcriptomic and proteomic evidence shows that males simultaneously tail-fan multiple ca 20 kDa glycosylated SPF proteins during courtship. Notably, molecular dating estimates show that the diversification of these proteins already started in the late Palaeozoic, about 300 million years ago. Our study thus not only extends the use of uncleaved SPF proteins outside terrestrially reproducing plethodontid salamanders, but also reveals one of the oldest vertebrate pheromone systems.