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Manipulation of Pheromone Signals

Individual distance as any other pheromone space varies with the needs or requirements of an individual at a given time. As the production of odor from the skin glands is under the control of sex horm...

Individual distance as any other pheromone space varies with the needs or requirements of an individual at a given time. As the production of odor from the skin glands is under the control of sex hormones, individual distances of aggressive animals or those in a pheromone reproductive state will be increased automatically with a repelling or attracting effect depending on their physiological state.

Thus for instance the individual distance of an estrous female rabbit will be narrower, i.e. she will be more approachable, more attractive in relation to males, and wider, i.e. she will be less approachable, more repelling, in relation to females.

Apart from the spontaneous variation of the individual distances of animals released by seasonal or long-lasting physiological changes, there are numerous examples of deliberate efforts by animals to change them in different behavioral situations. The aggressive display of the wild rabbit offers a good example.

The dissemination of an individual’s own odor in various forms precedes and accompanies the ghting of two male rabbits. Individuals seem to make a deliberate attempt to surround themselves with their own pheromone odor. Thus prior to actual physical contact, which in many cases never takes place, the two opponents become engaged in scratching the surface of, and chinning, the ground. They also chin intensively on any other objects and often defecate. Simultaneously they erect their tails prominently exposing the inguinal glands and partly extruding the anus. Analysis of film records of rabbits in aggressive interactions shows clearly that individuals prominently displaying the white undersurface of the tail invariably emerged as the victors. The subordinate. less aggressive rabbits, much as inhibited dogs, press their tails down tightly, presumably suppressing the dissemination of their odors. Thus it seems that there is a deliberate attempt by animals of many species to surround themselves with their own odor and by this means to widen their safety zone.

A good example of the manipulation of social distance by the use of odor comes from a report on the behavior of the hippopotamus. According to Verheyen (1954, quoted by Fradrich 1967), two hippos, confronting one another aggressively, be- come engaged in the production of their own odor. They defecate and expel gases through their mouths. The one which produces the larger amount of feces emerges as the victor according to

Urine also plays a very important role in the manipulation of pheromone signals. It is used by rabbits of both sexes in the course of aggression as well as in mating behavior.

Urination in the rabbit was originally reported by Southern (1948), and urination of does by bucks is an integral part of the precopulatory behavior of the species (Myers and Poole 1961). In this way not only the males but also their sexual partners carry the olfactory signal demonstrating their sphere of inuence. Chinning and urination of young individuals, which is a very common form of behavior of males, produce the same effect and thereby strengthens the social claims of the individual identified with a given scent.

Self urination, so frequently reported amongst animals, particularly ungulates (Hedgier 1944), is another ex- ample of the reinforcement of individual pheromone distances. Males of many species during the breeding season urinate on their chest, abdomen, and legs with the result that their characteristic odor can be detected at a distance even by man. Some species of primates rub urine onto various parts of their body after urinating on their hands.

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Alexander P is a blogger that studies pheromones. He is based in Los Angeles.

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