AsianScientist (Mar. 5, 2014) – Goats, particularly male goats, have a distinctive smell that many may find offensive. However, among the bad smells is a chemical which might control attractiveness and reproduction in other animals, including humans.
Yuji Mori’s group from the University of Tokyo has identified a single molecule produced by male goats which is responsible for switching on the reproductive pathway of females. This research was published in the journal Current Biology.
Using specially fitted caps, the gases from the heads of male intact and neutered goats were collected. The researchers found a number of chemicals unique to intact males, including one, 4-ethyloctanal, which had the ability to activate the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) pulse generator, considered to be the “central reproduction axis”. They were able to confirm their findings in female goats, showing that their brains were directly activated by 4-ethyloctanal.
This is the first example of a primer pheromone, which exerts long-lasting effects required for reproduction, to be found. Other pheromones which act immediately, known as releaser pheromones, have previously been described.
The researchers hope to extend their findings to other livestock or even human beings, noting that the mechanisms governing attraction and reproduction are similar in different mammals.
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