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Pheromone Occurrence in Individuals

However, a very large number of reports on the occurrence and histological structure of specialized, odor-producing skin glands and on behavioral patterns concerned with the emission, deposition and o...

However, a very large number of reports on the occurrence and histological structure of specialized, odor-producing skin glands and on behavioral patterns concerned with the emission, deposition and olfactory investigation of excretions suggest that pheromones not only exist in many -- if not most — primate species, but that they are also of considerable importance in regulating the daily life of the individual according to

I shall review the evidence for the existence of pheromones in infrahuman primates and discuss their possible functions. While the existence, biological function and chemical nature of a pheromone has been clearly demonstrated only in Macaca mulatta (c.f.Curtis et al. 1971; Michael et al. 1972), it is inferred in a great number of primate species. Evidence for communication by chemical signals and for their function is mainly based on three groups of facts:

1) The majority of all infrahuman primates shows olfactory and gustatory (snifng and sometimes licking) investigation of the bodies of conspecics and of their odor marks in different social and especially in sexual situations (c.f. Michael 1969 and many others).

2) Many species possess specialized skin glands in various body regions which often produce odoriferous secretions.

3) Many species show highly stereotyped behavioral patterns, interpreted as scent marking. These are concerned with applying feces, urine, saliva, vaginal discharge and the products of skin glands to their own body, that of conspecics or to the environment. The behavioral context in which these marking patterns are observed (e.g. sexual or aggressive encounters, territorial defense) is often the only cue to the biological role of the chemical signals.

The frequent sniffing of the bodies, the genitals and the scent marks and excretions of sexual and social partners indicates that mainly olfaction is involved in the perception of primate pheromones. In the species which possess a functioning organ of Jacobson (Stephan 1965), this might be involved also. Seitz (1969) for instance, reports that Nycticebus coucang Boddaert sniffs the urine of conspecics while showing rapid oscillating protrusions of the tongue. He remarks on the similarity of this behavior to the rhythmic tongue protrusions of lizards and snakes and argues that the behavior might serve to bring taste stimuli into the mouth as well as bring stimules molecules in contact with the organ of Jacobson through the canales incisivi. In several species of marmoset monkeys which also have a functioning organ of Jacobson, we frequently observe olfactory investigation of urine, scent marks and the body of conspecics accompanied by rhythmic protrusion of the tongue, whose tip touches the stimulus (Epple 1967). Saimiri sciureus L. males show an almost identical behavior when sniffing the urine and the genitals of females (personal observation). In marmosets the sniffing behavior is occasionally followed by a ‘Flehmen’ face. Facial expressions very reminiscent of ‘Flehmen’, which is supposedly involved in perception of mainly sexual stimuli via the organ of Jacobson (Knappe 1964), have been observed in Lemur catta L. (Jolly 1966) during the investigation of chemical stimuli.

The frequency with which a few species not only sniff the various chemical stimuli provided by conspecicsFind Article, but also lick them and even ingest excretions indicates that taste might play a role in their perception and/or that there are some primate pheromones which affect the receiving organism via ingestlon.

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Alexander P is a blogger that studies pheromones

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