1 Tahrcountry Musings: The Scent of Love

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Scent of Love

Detection of female mating status using chemical signals and cues
 Melissa L. Thomas
Journal Biological Reviews. Article first published online: 3 MAR 2010

In this fascinating paper author Melissa L. Thomas review evidence that chemical cues and signals are used widely by males to discriminate between mated and unmated females. Melissa also explores the mechanisms by which female odour changes post-mating.

The author says our understanding of the processes driving the evolution of chemical signals is rudimentary in comparison to auditory and visual traits, despite chemical signals being subject to the same kinds of natural and sexual selective forces.

Information content of chemical signals can allow receivers to discriminate conspecifics from heterospecifics, and determine their sex and dominance status as well as a range of other traits.

In this review the author elaborates specifically on the role of pheromones in the discrimination of a female's reproductive status (mated or unmated). Pheromones seem to be ideal indicators of transitory states such as changing reproductive status. Pheromones used for this type of discrimination can either be volatile, airborne pheromones and/or pheromones that require contact between the emitter and receiver.

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