Male lake char release taurocholic acid as part of a mating pheromone

Journal of Experimental Biology
By: , and 



The evolutionary origins of sexual preferences for chemical signals remain poorly understood, due, in part, to scant information on the molecules involved. In the current study, we identified a male pheromone in lake char (Salvelinus namaycush) to evaluate the hypothesis that it exploits a non-sexual preference for juvenile odour. In anadromous char species, the odour of stream-resident juveniles guides migratory adults into spawning streams. Lake char are also attracted to juvenile odour but have lost the anadromous phenotype and spawn on nearshore reefs, where juvenile odour does not persist long enough to act as a cue for spawning site selection by adults. Previous behavioural data raised the possibility that males release a pheromone that includes components of juvenile odour. Using metabolomics, we found that the most abundant molecule released by males was also released by juveniles but not females. Tandem mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance were used to identify the molecule as taurocholic acid (TCA), which was previously implicated as a component of juvenile odour. Additional chemical analyses revealed that males release TCA at high rates via their urine during the spawning season. Finally, picomolar concentrations of TCA attracted pre-spawning and spawning females but not males. Taken together, our results indicate that male lake char release TCA as a mating pheromone and support the hypothesis that the pheromone is a partial match of juvenile odour.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Male lake char release taurocholic acid as part of a mating pheromone
Series title Journal of Experimental Biology
DOI 10.1242/jeb.246801
Volume 227
Issue 2
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher The Company of Biologists
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description jeb246801, 8 p.
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