How Pheromones Shape Biological Clocks




  • Pheromones can influence biological clocks
  • Odors may hold potential for combating jet lag in humans
  • Understanding moth behavior can revolutionize pest control strategies

Male moths’ circadian rhythm, or biological clock, is significantly influenced by the pheromones released by female moths, raising intriguing questions about the potential for odors to combat jet lag in humans, suggested a new study (1). Led by Abhishek Chatterjee and Sagnik Ghosh, both alumni of Presidency College in Kolkata, this research has far-reaching implications beyond the realm of insect behavior.


Role of Pheromones in Circadian Rhythms

Traditionally, it has been widely accepted that light synchronizes the internal clock of organisms with the external environment’s cyclic patterns. However, the recent discovery challenges this notion, suggesting that biological or social cues can also entrain the biological clock. Published in Current Biology, the study conducted at the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences of Paris (iEES-Paris) sheds new light on the intricate relationship between scent and circadian rhythms.

While the direct applicability to humans remains uncertain, Chatterjee and his team propose that specific scents or odors could hold the key to resetting our biological clocks, offering a potential remedy for jet lag. Jet lag, affecting not only travelers but also individuals with irregular sleep patterns, poses a widespread challenge. By exploring the effects of various scents on the circadian clock, researchers aim to uncover novel strategies for managing this common phenomenon.


Bridging the Gap between Moths and Humans

Chatterjee, an alumnus of Presidency College and the University of Calcutta, alongside Ghosh, who pursued his Bachelor’s degree at Presidency University and is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Paris-Saclay, elucidates how pheromones, typically used by female moths to attract mates, can disrupt the mating efficacy of moths when introduced at irregular intervals. This disruption holds promise for bio-control strategies aimed at managing agricultural pests, thereby safeguarding crops and human health.


Harnessing Nature’s Tools for Pest Management

Building upon the insights gained from moth behavior, researchers envision innovative approaches to manipulating vectors and pests, such as mosquitoes and agricultural pests. By administering pheromones during atypical times, mating cycles can be disrupted, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional pesticide use. Ghosh emphasizes the potential impact on pest populations, particularly in agricultural settings where moths pose a significant threat to crop yield.

The interdisciplinary nature of the study, involving researchers from France and Italy, underscores the global significance of understanding biological clocks and their modulation by environmental cues. Moving forward, investigations into the precise mechanisms underlying odor-mediated entrainment of circadian rhythms offer exciting prospects for both basic research and practical applications in pest management and human health.

In summary, the study’s findings illuminate the intricate interplay between scent, circadian rhythms, and behavior, paving the way for innovative solutions to longstanding challenges in both agriculture and human well-being. As scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of biological clocks, the potential for harnessing nature’s tools for pest control and jet lag mitigation holds immense promise.


  1. Pheromone-mediated command from the female to male clock induces and synchronizes circadian rhythms of the moth Spodoptera littoralis




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