Image via WikipediaBody odors are important cues used for social and sexual discrimination. As was shown many times, animals can easily smell age-, health- and genetics-related differences. Recent study of our large-eyed relatives, ring-tailed lemurs, demonstrate that drugs can alter body scents and change behavior.
Researchers examined changes in endocrine and semiochemical profiles of sexually mature female lemurs treated with hormonal contraceptives during their breeding season. Genetic diversity and kinship were estimated using 11–14 microsatellite loci and pairwise genetic distances. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) was used to detect the volatile compounds in odor. A rater blind to the treatments scored lemur male behavior in regards to female odors.
The conclusion? Contraceptives change chemical ‘signature’, minimizing distinctiveness and genetic fitness cues. No more can the males determine which females are genetically and physically beautiful. All contracepted females lost their individuality and started to smell funny.
What about hormones and chemicals in our food? Maybe one day humans will wake up and realize that something is lost? May it will happen sooner rather than later...
For those interested in helping with our research of human environmental malodor - check our studies or this call for collaboration.
Jeremy Chase Crawford,, Marylène Boulet,, & Christine M. Drea (2010). Smelling wrong: hormonal contraception in lemurs alters critical female odour cues Proc. R. Soc. B published online before print July 28, 2010