Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

Research publications

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Research publications 2018

“Let’s feel the spirit of unity”

February 25, 2018

Bill Hansson, Vice president of the Max Planck Society, talks in an interview about the Max Planck Day, the nationwide, public MPG science event that takes place on September 14th throughout Germany and beyond [more]

Research publications 2017

Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet

November 16, 2017

Thistle tortoise beetles outsource the job of breaking down plant cell walls to a symbiotic bacterium [more]


Food odour enhances male flies’ attractiveness

October 30, 2017

When female flies smell their favorite food, they become more receptive to courting males [more]


The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies

August 16, 2017

Bacterial pathogens cause infected flies to produce more sex pheromones and so expand their deadly reach [more]


A parasite involved in the plant alarm system

July 24, 2017

Host plants communicate warning signals through a parasite network, when insects attack [more]


Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard

April 28, 2017

Bacterial symbionts transition between plant pathogenicity and insect defensive mutualism [more]


Bergamotene—alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta

April 24, 2017

The volatile compound bergamotene increases the moths’ pollination success and protects tobacco leaves against their voracious offspring [more]


Bodyguards in the gut have a chemical weapon

January 22, 2017

Symbiotic bacteria produce antibiotics to clear harmful pathogens from the gut of caterpillars [more]

Research publications 2016

Olfactory glomeruli have a unique structure

September 20, 2016

The basic units of the olfactory system in the fly brain provide references to their function and ecological relevance [more]


The call of the dung

September 15, 2016

Frass excreted on fruits by vinegar flies contains sex pheromones and invites conspecifics to join the meal [more]


Moth takes advantage of defensive compounds in Physalis fruits

August 26, 2016

The berries act as immune boosters in the moth Heliothis subflexa, a specialist on this food [more]


Hawk moths have a second nose for evaluating flowers

May 30, 2016

Using olfactory neurons on their proboscis, moths weigh which flowers to visit [more]


Scent guides hawk moths to the best-fitting flowers

May 18, 2016

Max Planck researchers show that Manduca sexta recognizes the scent of flowers matching its proboscis and thereby optimizes energy gain [more]


How stick insects handle indigestive food

March 10, 2016

Max Planck researchers discovered multifunctional cellulases, enzymes capable of degrading plant cell wall components, previously unknown in animals [more]


The dandelion uses latex to protect its roots against insect feeding

January 06, 2016

A single chemical compound in the latex sap of the plant deters cockchafer larvae. [more]

Research publications 2015

Their enemy's sex pheromone helps flies protect their offspring

December 17, 2015

Female Drosophila flies avoid oviposition sites that smell of parasitic wasps. This increases the survival rate of their larvae. [more]


Cooperating bacteria isolate cheaters

December 09, 2015

Bacteria, which reciprocally exchange amino acids, stabilize their partnership on two-dimensional surfaces and limit the access of non-cooperating bacteria to the exchanged nutrients [more]


Edible love gifts may influence female behaviour

October 07, 2015

Male crickets offer nuptial gifts to their mating partners which may alter the females’ reproductive physiology and make them less likely to mate with other males [more]


Community of soil bacteria saves plants from root rot

August 25, 2015

Without a protective mix of root bacteria, wild tobacco plants lose the fight against sudden wilt disease [more]


Deceptive flowers

July 13, 2015

How flowers use scent and nectar to manipulate pollinators and herbivores [more]


Diversity in a monoculture

April 15, 2015

Functional differences within a species ensure its survival and improve the productivity of the whole ecosystem [more]


Leaf odor attracts Drosophila suzukii

March 18, 2015

Beta-cyclocitral is highly attractive to fruit crop pest [more]


Fighting the Colorado potato beetle with RNA

February 26, 2015

RNA interference protects potato plants against herbivore attack [more]


Bacteria network for food

February 23, 2015

Bacteria connect to each other and exchange nutrients [more]


Fruit flies can indirectly smell antioxidants

January 27, 2015

Fruit flies use olfactory cues to detect healthy antioxidants in their food [more]

Research publications 2014

Toxic fruits hold the key to reproductive success

December 09, 2014

A dopamine precursor in the toxic fruits of the morinda tree increases fertility in female Drosophila sechellia flies [more]


The nutritionists within

December 02, 2014

Firebugs depend on gut bacteria for vitamin supply [more]


Playing tag with sugars in the cornfield

September 26, 2014

Armyworms deactivate a maize chemical defense by reattaching a sugar in the opposite configuration [more]


Ready for mating at the right time

August 29, 2014

Researchers identify a pheromone in the urine of male tilapia fish that stimulates spawning in females [more]


Beetles that taste like mustard

May 09, 2014

Flea beetles outwit their host plant’s mustard oil bomb and use it for their own purposes [more]


Faithful allies since the Cretaceous

April 14, 2014

Symbiosis between beewolves and their protective bacteria originated millions of years ago [more]


The first insects were not yet able to smell well

March 27, 2014

Odorant receptors of recent insects evolved long after insects migrated from water to land [more]


Nectar: a sweet reward from plants to attract pollinators

March 16, 2014

Flowering plants need sugar transporter SWEET9 for nectar production [more]


Ants protect acacia plants against pathogens

January 17, 2014

Researchers discover an additional level of this insect-plant symbiosis [more]


Toxic breath keeps spiders away

January 02, 2014

Tobacco hornworm larvae exhale a small fraction of nicotine from ingested tobacco leaves as a defense signal to deter predatory spiders [more]

Research publications 2013

Toxic substances in banana plants kill root pests

December 12, 2013

Banana plants protect themselves from parasitic nematodes by increasing local concentrations of defensive substances in infected root tissues. [more]


Preference for oranges protects fruit flies from parasites

December 05, 2013

One single odorant receptor controls choice of citrus fruits as egg-laying substrate in Drosophila [more]


Division of labour in the test tube

December 02, 2013

Bacteria grow faster if they feed each other [more]


Domesticated silk moths have limited sense of smell

November 21, 2013

Domesticated silkmoths Bombyx mori have a much more limited perception of environmental odours compared to their wild relatives. [more]


Female moths use olfactory signals to choose the best egg-laying sites

June 05, 2013

Small changes in the composition of green leaf volatiles induced by herbivory guide ovipositing female moths to unattacked plants [more]


Asian lady beetles use biological weapons against their European relatives

May 16, 2013

Invasive species from Eastern Asia uses microsporidia in order to out-compete native lady beetles [more]


Metal ions regulate terpenoid metabolism in insects

February 28, 2013

Controlled by metal ions a prenyl synthase in leaf beetle larvae produces the precursors for chemical defences or juvenile hormones [more]


Bugs need symbiotic bacteria to exploit plant seeds

January 09, 2013

Mid-gut microbes help insects in processing their food [more]

Research publications 2012

Not without my microbes

December 20, 2012

After metamorphosis European forest cockchafers benefit from the same bacterial symbionts housed during their larval stage [more]


A direct line through the brain to avoid rotten food

December 06, 2012

Odour activation of a dedicated neural pathway by geosmin activates a hard-wired avoidance response in the fly [more]


Herbivore defence in ferns

November 20, 2012

Unlike flowering plants, bracken ferns do not release any odour signals to attract the enemies of their attackers for their own benefit



Researchers use GPS tracking to monitor crab behaviour

November 15, 2012

Scientists gain new insights into the behaviour of the coconut crab Birgus latro [more]


Green leaf volatiles increase plant fitness via biocontrol

October 16, 2012

Field study published in the new scientific journal eLife reveals that biological pest control using predators of insect eggs and larvae increases plant fitness [more]


Insecticide resistance caused by recombination of two genes

September 12, 2012

Novel enzyme makes cotton bollworm resistant against pyrethroids [more]


Humidity increases odour perception in terrestrial hermit crabs

July 04, 2012

Olfaction in land crabs is still in an early transitional stage between life in water and on land [more]


How plants make cocaine

June 06, 2012

The discovery of the first enzyme in the pathway sheds new light on the evolution of alkaloid formation [more]


Tobacco plants advertise their defensive readiness to attacking leafhoppers

May 23, 2012

Herbivores evaluate their host’s readiness for defence [more]


Flies process attractive and deterrent odours in different brain areas

April 25, 2012

Newly developed analytic device Flywalk allows accurate studies of insect behaviour to be made [more]


Orientation of ants: every cue counts

March 09, 2012

Foraging desert ants always find their way back to the nest, even when it is only marked by a magnetic cue, vibration, or carbon dioxide. [more]

Research publications 2011

New bacteria toxins against resistant insect pests

October 19, 2011

Scientists have developed Bt toxins for the management of Bt resistance in European corn borer and other crop pests. [more]


How anti-mosquito repellents disorient insects

September 23, 2011

Chemical agent scrambles insects' odour receptor apparatus [more]


Insect gut microbe with a molecular iron reservoir

September 01, 2011

Max Planck researchers analyze the structure of an iron storage protein [more]


Lollipops with side effects

April 26, 2011

A plant’s sugary offering betrays caterpillars to predatory ants [more]


Molecular messages from the antennae

April 15, 2011

Scientists assemble genes involved in regulating olfaction in the antennae of a moth [more]


Production of mustard oils: on the orgin of an enzyme

March 17, 2011

During the evolution of plants of the mustard family a leucine producing enzyme mutated into an enzyme that protects plants against herbivores [more]


Host Change Alters Toxic Cocktail

March 10, 2011

Gene modification: Leaf beetle larvae attacking birch trees produce toxic cocktails that differ from the ones produced by conspecifics living on willows. [more]

Research publications 2010

Ants employ odors for orientation

December 01, 2010

The desert ant Cataglyphis recognizes odor maps with its antennae and makes its way home even in the most monotonous landscapes [more]


Orchid tricks hoverflies

October 15, 2010

Epipactis veratrifolia mimics aphid alarm pheromones to attract pollinators [more]


Deceitful lily fools flies

October 07, 2010

Solomon’s Lily imitates a yeasty odor to lure vinegar flies into a trap [more]


Red light regulates nectar secretion

September 29, 2010

Nectar production in Lima beans depends on light quality [more]


Green odour with fatal consequences for caterpillars

August 26, 2010

Tobacco hornworm larvae unintentionally transform plant substances into attractant signals that betray their location to their own enemies [more]


The small E/Z difference and its consequence

July 01, 2010

Sex pheromone production in European corn borer races explored / Tracking the origin of new species [more]


Plant hormone regulates nectar production

March 29, 2010

Jasmonic acid triggers nectar accumulation in rapeseed flowers [more]


Smelling the Scenery in Stereo

March 10, 2010

Desert ants perceive odour maps in stereo and use this information for navigation [more]


Beewolves protecting their offspring create a buzz with antibiotics

February 28, 2010

Digger wasp larvae use bacteria against infections [more]


Changing flowering times protect tobacco plants against insect herbivory

January 21, 2010

Messenger molecule in oral secretions of herbivorous insects changes flower opening time of their host plants [more]

Research publications 2009

Bacteria expect the unexpected

November 05, 2009

Scientists observe the emergence of a new adaptation strategy to rapidly changing environmental conditions [more]


New mass spectrometric method

June 18, 2009

Fast and comprehensive analyses of metabolites becomes possible [more]


Desert ants smell their way home

February 27, 2009

Desert ants input both local smells and visual cues into their navigation systems to guide them home [more]

Research publications 2008

Bitter-tasting nectar and floral odours optimize outcrossing in plants

August 29, 2008

Experiments with genetically modified plants reveal aspects of flower biochemistry [more]


Small helpers in the genome coordinate defence strategies in plants

March 20, 2008

Max Planck scientists decipher the "vocabulary" hidden in small RNAs that regulate plant defences against herbivores [more]

Research publications 2007

Surprise in the organic orchard - a healthier worm in the apple

September 27, 2007

Scientists discover how the codling moth rapidly developed virus resistance [more]

Research publications 2006

After insects attack, plants bunker sugars for later regrowth

September 05, 2006

One gene activates a rapid SOS (save our sugars) response in young green leaves after attack by insect larvae [more]


Plant Cells "Black Out" when Eaten by Leafworms

March 14, 2006

A German-Italian team of researchers shows that when plant tissue is eaten by insects, it causes a decrease in electric voltage [more]


New Possibilities to Fight Pests with Biological Means

January 18, 2006

Max Planck researchers in Jena, Germany have identified a gene which produces a chemical "cry for help" that attracts beneficial insects to damaged plants [more]

Research publications 2004

Survival Strategies in Nature

July 05, 2004

Field Trials with transgenic wild tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata) reveal new and unexpected insights into plant-herbivore-interactions [more]

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