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44529Re: [evol-psych] Article: The secrets of animal attraction

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  • JV Kohl
    Jul 31, 2006
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      Robert Karl Stonjek wrote:
      Merely identifying the existence of these particular odour receptors in humans does not prove that humans use this particular form of olfaction to seek out mates.  But desperate females can test the theory by carrying, on their person, an ovulating rodent - rumour has it that the most attractive mates turn out to be rats anyway.

      Comparatively speaking, merely stating that humans are primarily visual creatures, does not prove that humans use any form of visual input to seek out mates. Desparate (e.g., ovulatory) human females could, however, test this visual theory. Approach a good-looking potential mate, evaluate his genetically coded  individual scent signature, and decide what to do, knowing that he may turn out to be a "rat".  But what if the human female ignores her decision making process and behaves like any other mammalian female who finds a male with a "fit" scent signature. In this case, the unconscious affect of the fit male's pheromones on her behavior will be driven by demonstrable effects of pheromones on hormones. These effects are first manifest by gene activation in cells of tissue in the brain --an organ that is part of any organ system involved in behavior. Given the demonstrable effects of human pheromones on the aforementioned 5-step gene-cell-tissue-organ-organ system pathway that links sensory cues from our social environment to our sexual behavior, sarcasm or humor seem inappropriate. Such uniquely human commentary might be more appropriate when researchers report on any aspect of visually perceived human physical attraction that cannot be explained by olfactory/pheromonal conditioning of the human female's visual response. Merely starting with the number of genes coding for the receptors required, or how the genetic diversity allows for the species-specific response might be sufficient to stall research on the significance of visual input as compared to olfactory/pheromonal input. Running up against the "brick wall" of no direct connection between visual input and our neuroendocrine system is another problem. Innate sex differences in the signal and in the processing of the signal are also largely ignored when people choose to accept the visual theory, as is the neuronal plasticity that allows for extremely subtle (e.g., genetically determined) differences in the response . Perhaps this is one reason that the picture of the swans was used in the article. I think that people are more likely to buy into the visual model if examples from avian species are used, at least until they learn a little about pheromones in birds. Meanwhile, sarcasm and humor help to ensure that few people will be inspired to learn anything more about neuroscience, genetics, immunology, or more generally, the biological basis of mammalian, including human, sexual behavior.

      Jim Kohl

      The secrets of animal attraction
      Image: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images
      Many animals respond to chemical sex signals, or pheromones
      Biologists have found evidence that people can sniff out the chemical signals of sexual attraction.

      A US team has discovered a new class of receptors used by mice to detect pheromones, the sex hormones released by a potential mate.

      The gene for the receptors is also found in humans, suggesting that they too may be influenced by chemicals used in the dating game.

      The findings are published in the online edition of the journal Nature.

      Mice, like other mammals, can detect many different odours using receptors attached to special cells in the lining of the nose.

      When an odour locks on to the receptor, a signal is sent to a processing centre in the brain, which perceives it as a specific smell.

      Mammals have as many as 1,000 different odour receptors, giving them the ability to detect and discriminate a wide range of smells.

      Now, researchers have discovered a new family of receptors that are located in the nasal lining of the mouse. These respond to volatile natural chemicals called amines, which are derivatives of ammonia.

      Nobel prize

      The receptors, known as trace amine-associated receptors (TAAR), detect several chemicals present in the urine of mice, including one linked to stress and another thought to be a mating signal.

      The gene that codes for the receptor is found not only in mice but in fish and humans, suggesting that the behaviour of a diverse group of animals is influenced by pheromones.

      The sensory receptors were tracked down by Dr Linda Buck and Dr Stephen Liberles of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, US.

      Dr Buck won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discoveries on odour receptors and the organisation of the olfactory system.

      Source: BBC
      http://news. bbc.co.uk/ 2/hi/science/ nature/5225260. stm

      Posted by
      Robert Karl Stonjek

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