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Biosynthesis of alkyl sulphides by an ant

Abstract

ALKYL sulphides are relatively common in microorganisms and higher plants1,2, but rare in animals. In the arthropods they seem to be restricted to the African stink ant Paltothyreus tarsatus3,4, where they are produced in the mandibular glands and function as releasers of digging behaviour. The two sulphides produced by the ant are dimethyl disulphide and dimethyl trisulphide5. An investigation of the biosynthesis of these compounds seemed particularly interesting for several reasons: their de novo production in animals is unknown, they seem to be unique to Paltothyreus and biosynthetic studies of very few arthropod pheromones have been undertaken.

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