Pheromones: The Great Communicators
When a stream of ants picks up on and then follows this fake trail, the assassin bugs attack the ants and eat them due to the alarm pheromones. Pheromones: The Great Communicators Can pheromones ind...
When a stream of ants picks up on and then follows this fake trail, the assassin bugs attack the ants and eat them due to the alarm pheromones.
Pheromones: The Great Communicators
Can pheromones induce camaraderie or emotions in animals as they are thought to do in humans? When we talk of animals having emotions, we often speak in human terms. We say, “That dog looks sad,” but what leads us to that conclusion? Is the dog withdrawn and droopy (as sad humans tend to be)? Does it lack energy or enthusiasm? We know how we feel when we’re sad, but can we apply those characteristics to animals. Learn more at http://astrobiosociety.org
Higher-level expression among animals has been debated for many centuries. Aristotle believed that animals could exhibit a broad range of passions, and that humans and animals share some traits, including gentleness, fierceness, mildness, courage, and timidity. Aristotle made one very clear distinction, however: In his view, animals display their passions instinctively; that is, they act automatically, without intention.
Aristotle also theorized that animals lack virtues and vices and that only humans are capable of moral or immoral behavior. He concluded that passions are the result of instinct, whereas emotions require the involvement of the intellect. Because animals lack intellect, they can display only certain passions, not emotions.
We have seen how animals are compelled to display a full range of passions-lust, anger, sexual jealousy as they respond to the chemical codes of pheromones. But is there more to animal behavior than the obvious motivations that are determined by pheromonal stimuli? Do animals have the ability to communicate deeply felt feelings?
Writer Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson touches on the controversial issue of romantic love among animals in When Elephants Weep.
The Emotional Lives of Animals. He says, “Whether it is called emotion or drive, in most scientific circles it is forbidden to say that animals love.”Masson goes on to say, “Perhaps love, the emotion, has evolutionary value.” Indeed, it seems reasonable to suppose that the power of love could very well be the motivation behind ferociously protecting a nest or mating for life. But can love among animals be reduced simply to no more than a clever evolutionary method of ensuring the survival of the gene pool?
Masson tells the story of a mother elephant who went through heroic efforts to save her drowning calf. Oblivious to her own needs, the mother risked her life to save her baby. Fortunately, both survived, even after the calf found itself stranded on a ledge and the mother was swept some distance downstream in the rush of the water. The mother’s face seemed awash in emotion. She was frantic over seeing her baby in danger, and she reacted much like a human mother would if her child were in jeopardy .
There are accounts of animals who have “fallen in love” with each other to such an extent that when one dies, the other retreats into melancholy and depression. One example Masson gives, as told by animal behaviorist Konrad Lorenz, involves two geese who had mated and bonded. When the female was killed tragically, the male responded with a grieving process that was strikingly similar to a human’s. He had no gumption, no appetite for life. He sat slumped over, his eyes dull. And yet, after some time spent in mourning, the bird recovered sufficiently to start a relationship with another goose.
Stories exist of animals who express strong preferences for others of their species. Humans don’t hand over their hearts to ; just anyone. We size up our potential mates: how he smells or N dresses, what college she attended or where she works. However, beneath this analysis the pheromonally directed dance of attraction goes on. If a couple’s pheromones are not compatible, chances are the couple won’t be happy together. Perhaps it’s the, same for animals.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Alexander is a blogger who studies pheromones.