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Male elephants woo females with precise chemistry

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The researchers hope to use the study's results to "tease apart the entire route of how pheromones move" from the source elephant to the recipient. They already have been studying the other end of that route - the proteins in the elephants' olfactory systems that receive the signals sent by the source.

"We're interested in where the frontalin is bound to the proteins in the various olfactory mucous milieus and transferred to the vomeronasal organ, where it's sensed as a pheromone," Greenwood said. "We're promoting the elephant as a good olfactory model because their olfactory systems are enormous and separated in space. This is combined with its easily observable and countable olfactory responses involving its trunk. We can't do this in any other mammalian species."

Rasmussen added: "All of these responses and resultant behaviors are measurable in time. Not milliseconds, but seconds. We have a repertoire of follow-up behavior, such as trumpeting, running away and circling, that also can be counted and scored. Such information is translatable at the basic level to other animals," including humans.


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Source:Oregon Health & Science University


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