PHEROMONS

Laurie Davison ldavison at pop.uky.edu
Thu Jan 30 12:54:08 EST 1997


   It's spelled "pheremones":) The definition of the term is basically a 
chemical produced by one animal which induces a response in another 
animal (generally of the same species). It's well documented in insects 
and more controversial among mammals, though the controversy seems to be 
dying somewhat.
   In many mammals a "scent" is given off in urine, sweat, or glandular 
secretions which other animals can detect and interpret. It is especially 
important among cave dwellers, nocturnal animals, or other animals which 
cannot easily "see" the other animal. It is by no means restricted to 
these, though. 
   I think the best documented mammalian work is with rats and mice, 
among which urine is used to indicate when a female is in heat or whether 
the rat is male or female. Experiments have been conducted in which just 
the bedding (presumably covered with urine or feces) of a male rat, when 
placed in a pen with females, will cause them to go into estrus (heat). 
   There's a lot of speculation that the same thing happens in other 
mammals given that 1)scent glands do exist  2)marking of territory 
includes urination, defecation, or rubbing of anal or other glands on 
"scent posts" around the territory and 3)the "sniffing" of a female by a 
male prior to mating. All of these seem to indicate that some message is 
being conveyed via chemicals and olfaction. Sounds like pheremones to me! 
   There is a tendency in science to say "Yeah, ok, there are pheremones 
in other mammals, but that doesn't mean humans do it, too!" A better 
statement might be "There is evidence for the use of pheremones in other 
mammals, therefore it is possible that humans also use pheremones." 
Whether or not we do is still the topic of heated debate. :)

   -Laurie-




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