The evolutionary origins of the cat attractant nepetalactone in catnip
June 30, 2020 11:41 AM Subscribe
Catnip’s chemical attractant is new twist on old family tradition (Florida Museum): Catnip is most famous for its ability to launch felines into a euphoric frenzy, but the origin of its cat-attracting chemical is a remarkable example of evolutionary innovation. [...] Many of catnip’s relatives in the mint family use iridoids as chemical armor. But an international team of researchers (Science Advances) found the ancient ancestor of catnip lost a key iridoid-making gene. Descendants in this lineage – herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary, lemon balm and mint – had to lean on other defenses, with one notable exception: catnip, which revived the family tradition by evolving a new iridoid production line from scratch.