Sea Hare 'Love Drug'

March 8, 2003
From: Bill Rudman

Sam Moore's message reminded me of this paper (Painter, et al, 1998) on the discovery of a chemical produced by Aplysia californica which the authors called attractin and propose is the first waterborne pheromone to be used by invertebrates. The research was headlined in a popular science publication as the 'Slug Love Drug'. Here is a summary of the Abstract:

Although animals in the genus Aplysia are solitary during most of the year, they form breeding aggregations during the reproductive season. The aggregations contain both mating and egg-laying animals and are associated with masses of egg cordons. The egg cordons are a source of pheromones that establish and maintain the aggregation, but none of the pheromones have been chemically characterized. In these studies, specimens of Aplysia were induced to lay eggs, the egg cordons were collected and four active proteins isolated. In T-maze experiments all four proteins increased the number of animals attracted to a nonlaying conspecific. The proteins all contained the same terminal peptide sequence and the full-length peptide (attractin) was isolated from the albumen gland, a large exocrine organ that packages the eggs into a cordon. Attractin is the first water-borne peptide pheromone characterized in molluscs, and the first in invertebrates.

• S. D. Painter, S.D., Clough, B., Garden, R.W., Sweedler, J. V. & Nagle, G.T. (1998) Characterization of Aplysia Attractin, the First Water-borne Peptide Pheromone in Invertebrates. Biological Bulletin, 194: 120-131

Rudman, W.B., 2003 (Mar 8) Sea Hare 'Love Drug'. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from


Mating chains

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