Tuesday, November 4, 2014

04/11/2014: Dominant male urine draws in female Tilapia

by Stefan Sirucek for National Geographic

Urine may not get most species in the mood, but a pheromone in male tilapia urine serves to attract mates, a new study says.ii

The research may improve how tilapia—the second most farmed fish in the world—is raised and managed for food, experts say.

Scientists already knew that pee played a role in how Mozambique tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus, interact with each other, but the exact mechanism was a mystery.
It all starts with the tilapia's social structure, which is surprisingly complex for a creature that many will know only as a breaded fillet.

"It's actually a quite interesting fish, because tilapias are highly social animals, so the males form hierarchies in a so-called spawning arena," said study leader Tina Keller-Costa, of the Centre of Marine Sciences at the University of Algarve in Portugal.

"They dig nests in the sand, and the dominant males are usually in the center and they aggressively defend a small territory. And those are the ones that have access to the females."

During these rivalries, the males pee a lot. When scientists examined the urine of dominant and subordinate males, they found a pheromone that contains a certain steroid similar to progesterone, a female reproductive hormone, according to the study, published September 22 in the journal Current Biology.

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