Navigation Links
Primate's scent speaks volumes about who he is
Date:6/23/2008

DURHAM, N.C. -- Perhaps judging a man by his cologne isn't as superficial as it seems.

Duke University researchers, using sophisticated machinery to analyze hundreds of chemical components in a ringtailed lemur's distinctive scent, have found that individual males are not only advertising their fitness for fatherhood, but also a bit about their family tree as well.

"We now know that there's information about genetic quality and relatedness in scent," said Christine Drea, a Duke associate professor of biological anthropology and biology. The male's scent can reflect his mixture of genes, and to which animals he's most closely related. "It's an honest indicator of individual quality that both sexes can recognize," she said.

Lemurs, distant primate cousins of ours who split from the family tree before the monkeys and apes parted ways, have a complex and elaborate scent language that until recently was completely undiscovered by humans. Drea said it's language that is undoubtedly richer than we can imagine.

"All lemurs make use of scent," she said. "The diversity of glands is just amazing."

Ringtailed males have scent glands on their genitals, shoulders and wrists, each of which makes different scents. Other lemur species also have glands on their heads, chests and hands. Add to these scents the signals that can be conveyed in feces and urine, and there's a lot of silent, cryptic communication going on in lemur society.

Wearing a scent-based nametag declaring one's genetics is probably useful in avoiding aggression with closely related males, Drea said. It's also quite likely to help prevent inbreeding by signaling family relationships to females, but the research to prove that is still ongoing.

For this study, Drea and postdoctoral fellows Marie Charpentier and Marylne Boulet focused solely on male ringtailed lemurs living at the Duke Lemur Center (http://lemur.duke.edu/).

The males have a gland and spike on each wrist that is used to scratch and mark saplings with highly aromatic scents. A pair of glands on the shoulders "like misplaced nipples" manufacture squalene, a scent molecule that works like glue to keep the more aromatic compounds in place longer. Males can be seen dabbing the wrist gland on the chest gland and then scratch-marking. The wrist glands are also central to the "stink fighting" of ringtails, in which they rub the glands along the length of their bushy tails, and then foist them into each others' face to express dominance.

Most importantly, the male also has a scent gland on his scrotum that becomes critical to marking territory and advertising fitness during mating season. He does a handstand and rubs this gland directly onto a tree trunk to let any interested lemurs know who he is and what he's made of.

Scent not only speaks volumes, it's physiologically expensive to make, Drea said. When a lemur is ill or socially stressed, its scent changes dramatically. "If he loses his signals, it's quite likely its because he's less genetically fit," Drea said. "And his sexual or social partners can know that."

Female ringtailed lemurs have just one scent gland in the genital area, but their scent is more complex than the males'. Via scent, females may advertise not only their fertility, but the presence of a pregnancy and how far along it is, Drea said.

To a human, a lemur has a sort of musky scent. "In its little vial, the sample smells just terrible," said Charpentier, the postdoctoral fellow who deciphered the genetics and is now examining the behavioral response to these scents.

But under a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer, postdoctoral fellow Boulet found that the powerful musk resolves into at least 203 different chemical compounds in a complex mix that has been found to vary not only by season, but by an individual's genetics as well. Boulet conducted this analysis after collecting cotton swabs of scent from the scrotums and other parts of 19 male lemurs throughout the seasons.

These findings fit with work done on how people feel about the odors individual humans leave behind on a T-shirt and sheds more light on Charles Darwin's theories about sexual selection being one of the drivers of evolution, Drea said. In both cases, there is some subtle signaling in scent that apparently helps govern mate choice or nepotism, even when humans' meager sense of smell isn't conscious of it, she said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Karl Leif Bates
karl.bates@duke.edu
919-681-8054
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Slowly-developing primates definitely not dim-witted
2. Researchers examine closest living relative to primates
3. Fluorescent nano-barcodes could revolutionize diagnostics
4. Study supports reason for concern in childhood and adolescent obesity
5. SAGE launches new journal -- ICAN: Infant, Child, & Adolescent Nutrition
6. Adolescent girls with ADHD are at increased risk for eating disorders, study shows
7. Learning how to say no to alcohol advertising and peer pressure works for inner-city adolescents
8. Fluorescent cells give early warning for eye disease
9. Carnegie Mellon scientists develop fluorescent proteins for live cell imaging, biosensor design
10. Squirrels use snake scent
11. Good earth: Brown chemists show origin of soil-scented geosmin
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/16/2016)... --  EyeLock LLC , a market leader of iris-based ... IoT Center of Excellence in Austin, Texas ... embedded iris biometric applications. EyeLock,s iris authentication ... with unmatched biometric accuracy, making it the most proven ... platform uses video technology to deliver a fast and ...
(Date:5/9/2016)... -- Elevay is currently known as the ... high net worth professionals seeking travel for work   ... there is still no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. ... deal with a firm handshake. This is why wealthy ... citizenship via investment programs like those offered by the ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... SAN FRANCISCO and BANGALORE, India ... part of EdgeVerve Systems, a product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: ... service provider, today announced a global partnership that ... convenient way to use mobile banking and payment services. ... Mobility is a key innovation area for financial services, but ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... operations for Amgen, will join the faculty of the University of North ... adjunct professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler, with a focus on ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016 Epic Sciences unveiled a ... susceptible to PARP inhibitors by targeting homologous recombination ... The new test has already been incorporated into ... cancer types. Over 230 clinical trials ... pathways, including PARP, ATM, ATR, DNA-PK and WEE-1. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... UAS LifeSciences, ... launch of their brand, UP4™ Probiotics, into Target stores nationwide. The company, which ... to add Target to its list of well-respected retailers. This list includes such ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 Houston Methodist Willowbrook ... Cy-Fair Sports Association to serve as their official ... Houston Methodist Willowbrook will provide sponsorship support, athletic ... with association coaches, volunteers, athletes and families. ... Cy-Fair Sports Association and to bring Houston Methodist ...
Breaking Biology Technology: