SEACHEM - Comparative study on the functions and mechanisms of action of pheromones in marine echinoderms and fishes in a changing ocean

Aquaculture of marine organisms is now the main economic component of China’s marine industry. Among these organisms, fishes and echinoderms take a prominent role because of their nutritional and medicinal value. Although research on economically relevant aquaculture species has been increasing at impressive rates, not much is known on the importance of chemical communication for their reproduction, growth and welfare. Animals use their sense of smell to obtain information about reproductive and social status, gender, and kinship and to find and identify food. However, knowledge about the identity of the compounds (pheromones) that convey reproductive and social information is very limited and largely restricted to some groups such as insects and mammals. In contrast, the identity of pheromones produced by important aquaculture species such as sea cucumbers (Holothuroidea: Echinodermata) and marine fishes is not known, despite strong evidence for their essential function. Recent studies also point out that the chemosensory system and behaviour in several animals including fishes and invertebrates is affected by climate change and in particular ocean acidification.

The main aims of this project are to obtain an insight on the diversity of pheromone systems in two very different organisms of economic value (sea cucumbers and fishes) and to what extent chemosensory perception may be affected by environmental change.

The project brings together teams with complementary knowhow on the physiology of marine mammals: Institute of Science and Environment of the University of Saint Joseph (Macao), the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Qingdao, China) and the Centre of Marine Sciences of the University of the Algarve (Portugal). 

This project is jointly funded by the Macao Science and Technology Development Fund (FDCT) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). Project reference: FDCT 0001/2020/AFJ.