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Female mammals follow their noses to the right mates
Date:3/17/2009

ammalian species may be more likely to choose males using olfactory cues.

Research has shown that female mammals commonly investigate scent marks left by males. Females also show a preference to mate with males who scent mark more frequently.

Just what can a female learn about a male through his scent? Plenty, say Clutton-Brock and McAuliffe.

Recent studies have shown that mammalian females use scent to pick out genetically dissimilar males. Parents with dissimilar genes in a certain part of the genome tend to produce healthier offspring. So male mammals advertise their genotype via scent, and females pick up the signal and preferentially mate with dissimilar males. This ability to sniff out a good genetic match has been found in mice and humans.

Other studies of several rodent species have found that females dislike odors of males who are infected with parasites, and may avoid mating with them. Since resistance to parasites is often a genetic trait, choosing a parasite-free mate may be beneficial to offspring.

Study of olfactory mating cues is still in its infancy, Clutton-Brock and McAuliffe say. But they believe that this line of research will continue to reveal much about mammalian mate choice.

"[I]t is possible that in some mammals, males produce olfactory signals that match the elaboration and complexity of the peacock's tail or the sedge warbler's song ," Clutton-Brock and McAuliffe write.


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Contact: Kevin Stacey
kstacey@press.uchicago.edu
773-834-0386
University of Chicago Press Journals
Source:Eurekalert

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