Why some scents drive females into frenzy?

July 20th, 2011 - 3:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 20 (IANS) TV commercials feature a young man set upon by a bunch of frenzied, good looking girls, overpowered by the heady fragrance that he has sprayed himself with.

Male birds, too, deploy a similar tactic when they release their cologne or preen oil, secreted from a gland at the base of their tail. It draws the attention of not only female birds, but unwittingly also that of males, researchers said.

“It’s kind of like the ‘Axe effect’, in that females were attracted to the scent and didn’t seem to care where it came from, meaning their own population or a different one…,” said study author Danielle Whittaker.

“And I think the males were drawn in as an aggressive response to the scent of another male,” added Whittaker, MD, Michigan State University’s BEACON Centre for the Study of Evolution in Action.

Scents are used in all organisms for finding, attracting and evaluating mates, reports the journal Behavioural Ecology.

But this is the first study that shows what is happening among songbirds, even though they possess the smallest olfactory bulbs relative to brain size among all birds.

Recently, however, researchers have discovered that songbirds harbour a high number of olfactory receptors, and they’ve been able to prove that the birds are capable of using odours to help find their way.

So, Whittaker and her collaborators in Ellen Ketterson’s lab at Indiana University weren’t surprised to discover that the birds used scent in attracting mates.

Another interesting find was that when given a choice, the female birds preferred the odour of the smaller males, Whittaker said.

“Based on these results, I’m hoping to find out how and why small, unattractive males overcompensate by producing greater amounts of an attractive scent,” said Whittaker.

–Indo-Asian News service
st/sak/vt

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