• Chromatography Explores How Lemurs Use Their Own Natural Perfume

Chromatography Explores How Lemurs Use Their Own Natural Perfume

May 10 2020 Read 1218 Times

Making a good impression on any potential date is key to getting a second date and the chance to satisfy our biological need - to mate and produce offspring. A shower, nice clean clothes and a bit of charm and witty banter can all help to make a good impression. But sometimes it can be the hidden signs that can help proceedings along a little - like smelling nice.

A recent paper published in the journal Current Biology reports for the first time on the use of sex pheromones by ring-tailed lemurs in Madagascar. In the paper - Key Male Glandular Odorants Attracting Female Ring-Tailed Lemurs - scientists from the University of Tokyo used chromatography to identify the substances that arouse passion in female ring-tailed lemurs. Move over Chanel.

Fruity and floral aroma from the wrist

Similar to other animals, including humans, ring-tailed lemurs use pheromones or scent for various purposes. It could be to mark territory or reproductive status, or it could be to demonstrate who is number one or the alpha male. But recent behavioural observations suggested that something different was going on in the conspiracy of lemurs under study.

The senior author on the paper, Kazushige Touhara, professor and biochemist at the University of Tokyo said in a press release “During the yearly breeding season, male lemurs rub the glands on their wrists against their fluffy tails and then wave them at females in a behavior called 'stink flirting.’” The team reasoned that since only ring-tailed lemurs have these wrist glands and exhibit ‘stink flirting’ behaviour, it might be for sexual communication.

Aldehydes make the girls go weak

Following further observational studies, the team noticed that the scent markings left by males were sniffed at for longer by females during the breeding season. They isolated some of the scent from males and allowed females to sniff it. They found that the females sniffed it for roughly twice as long as the bitter-smelling gland secretions the males produce in off-season.

The team used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyse the gland secretions of males in both breeding season and off-season. The analysis of volatile compounds is discussed in the article, Vacuum Assisted Headspace Solid-phase Microextraction: A Powerful Tool for Olive Oil Analysis. The team found that the major chemical components making up the scents included three aldehyde compounds - dodecanal, 12-methyltridecanal and tetradecanal. Although all three compounds were in both scents, they were significantly higher in the breeding season scents.

To be effective in lemurs, all three scents have to be present. Younger males produced more of the scents and females past their reproductive prime were unimpressed by the sweet scent offerings. All three compounds are said to be involved in signalling between lambs and their mothers and all three are known to be used as communication tools in the animal kingdom.

Could Chanel be interested?

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