Anyone who's been to a dog park knows that canines have a rather shameless way of introducing themselves to one another. Don't try it in the clubs, kids. It rarely ends well. That said, butt sniffing is a wonderfully efficient method of exchanging information. If you're a dog, anyway.
Like thousands of other animal species, from mammals to crustaceans, dogs trade heavily in chemical secretions known as pheromones. These scent markers not only pass along information about potential rivals and mates, they can actually trigger specific behaviors or even physiological changes. What's more, pheromones are just part of an animal's overall "odorprint" -- a unique chemical signature that is often the single strongest determinant in sex behavior. In today's DNews report, Natalia Reagan explores some of the stranger scent systems used by animals, from lobsters to voles to Michigan State undergraduates.
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American Scientist: How Animals Communicate Via Pheromones
Oxford Journals: MHC genes, body odours, and odour preferences
BBC: Scent of attraction: How animals sniff the perfect mate