Most people have heard of pheromones, those mysterious chemicals that animals secrete to attract members of the opposite sex. But pheromones can also do a lot more. Here are few of their more interesting properties.--
Compiled by R. Douglas Fields
True to their reputation, pheromones affect reproduction in mammals.
|Whitten effect||Male pheromones induce estrus, or sexual receptivity and fertility, in females|
|Vandenbergh effect||Male pheromones accelerate puberty of females|
|Lee-Boot effect||Female pheromones suppress estrus cycle of other females and delay puberty of younger females|
|Bruce effect||Male pheromones from a new mate prevent newly fertilized egg from implanting and female returns to estrus|
|Dorm effect||Female pheromones synchronize estrous cycle of other females. Studies of women living in dormitory housing provide evidence in humans, but the results have not been replicated in other animals.|
|Coolidge effect||The loss of interest in sex after mating, which becomes reignited by pheromones from a new mate|
Love Potion No. 9
The pheromones below are sold commercially. However, no scientific evidence exists to prove that any of these products actually increases attraction between sexes.
|Name||What It Is||Product|
|Copulins||Fatty acids found in vaginal secretions||Synthetic versions appear in a variety of fragrances for women|
|Androstenone/Androstenol||Pheromone present in boar saliva||Andron, The Scent, The Secrete, Yes Pheromone,
Sex Attractant for Men (all claim to attract women)
|"Vomeropherins"||Marketing term for human androstens, progestins and estrogens||Realm Men and Realm Women colognes|
|DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone)||Steroid hormone abundant in humans||Pheromone 1013 (for women)|
|Steroids/musks/lipids||Human male pheromones||Pheromone 10X (for men)|
Battle of the Sexes
Animals that live in groups sometimes secrete pheromones that control one another's reproductive behavior.
|Lemurs (male)||Pheromones in the urine of dominant male lemurs suppress sexual activity in subordinates by depressing their testosterone levels|
|Lemurs (female)||Female urinary pheromones stimulate sperm formation and testosterone production in males|
|Prairie voles||Pheromones of dominant female prairie voles suppress reproduction by subordinate females|
When pheromones make war, not love.
|Parasitic wasps||Prey on aphids by detecting the sex pheromones of female aphids|
|Yellowjacket wasps||Prey on fruit flies by detecting the male fly pheromones|
|Honey Bees||Release alarm pheromones when they sting, which attract other bees to attack|
Some plants and animals evolved the ability to co-opt others' pheromones for their own nefarious purposes.
|Plant or Animal||Chemical-Control Effect|
|Australian orchids||Produce female sex pheromones of bees to lure males, who pollinate the flower as they attempt to mate with the petals|
|Bola spiders||Release a female moth sex pheromone to lure male moths as prey|
|Wild potatoes||Produce aphid alarm pheromones to repel aphids from attacking their leaves|
|Garter snakes||Certain males known as "she-males" release female sex pheromones that trick other males into expending sexual energy fruitlessly, giving the she-males better odds at mating successfully with real females|
|Female elephants||Secrete the same sex pheromone as many moths, but this doesn't appear to cause confusion about mating with the right species|
Mother Knows Best
Pheromones play a role in the mother-child bond.
|Human newborns||Learn the specific odors of their mother's breast and armpits within the first three hours after birth|
|Lambs||Cause an increase in the number of cells in their mother's olfactory bulb that respond selectively to baby lamb odors|
|Women||Have a sharper sense of smell than men, and brain imaging shows that a larger portion of their brain is activated by odors than in men|