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Frontiers in Zoology



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Chemical cues and pheromones guide decisions in organisms throughout the animal kingdom. The neurobiology, function, and evolution of olfaction are particularly well described in insects, and resulting concepts have driven novel approaches to pest control. However, aside from several exceptions, the olfactory biology of vertebrates remains poorly understood. One exception is the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), which relies heavily upon olfaction during reproduction. Here, we provide a broad review of the chemical cues and pheromones used by the sea lamprey during reproduction, including overviews of the sea lamprey olfactory system, chemical cues and pheromones, and potential applications to population management. The critical role of olfaction in mediating the sea lamprey life cycle is evident by a well-developed olfactory system. Sea lamprey use chemical cues and pheromones to identify productive spawning habitat, coordinate spawning behaviors, and avoid risk. Manipulation of olfactory biology offers opportunities for management of populations in the Laurentian Great Lakes, where the sea lamprey is a destructive invader. We suggest that the sea lamprey is a broadly useful organism with which to study vertebrate olfaction because of its simple but well-developed olfactory organ, the dominant role of olfaction in guiding behaviors during reproduction, and the direct implications for vertebrate pest management.

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