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Goat Pheromone Double Whammy

A single molecule emitted by male goats may influence female goat physiology and behavior.

By | March 3, 2014

FLICKR, MIKE BAIRDMale goats exude a compound, 4-ethyloctanal, that can prompt female goats’ brains to release chemicals to stimulate their reproductive systems, according to a study published last week (February 27) in Current Biology. When the compound is exposed to air, it oxidizes to 4-ethyloctanoic acid, which is long known to be partially responsible for the familiar “goaty smell” and to attract females.

“We are tempted to speculate that this is a clever reproductive strategy of the male goat to alter behavior and activity of the reproduction center in the female for mating by a single molecule,” coauthor Yukari Takeuchi of University of Tokyo said in a statement.

Takeuchi and his colleagues had previously found that the “male effect” was caused by the skin on goats’ heads, so they fitted male goats with a specially designed cap to capture compounds released by normal as well as castrated male goats. The researchers isolated several chemicals found only in the intact males, including 4-ethyloctanal. They then demonstrated 4-ethyloctanal’s effect on the female brain using electrophysiological monitoring.

 “There are relatively few instances in mammals where an individual compound has been positively identified as having a pheromonal effect,” the University of Bristol’s Peter Brennan, who was not involved in the research, told National Geographic’s Not Exactly Rocket Science. “There are fewer still in non-rodent species that have commercial importance.”

They authors suggest the finding may have implications for other livestock, and perhaps even humans, because the reproductive center of the brain is similar across most mammals.

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Avatar of: James V. Kohl

James V. Kohl

Posts: 162

March 3, 2014

Excerpt: They authors suggest the finding may have implications for other livestock, and perhaps even humans, because the reproductive center of the brain is similar across most mammals.

The reproductive center of all vertebrates is the same and so are the conserved molecular mechanisms that enable the epigenetic effects of food odor and pheromones to be manifested in GnRH-directed changes in luteinizing hormone (LH). For example, see:

Effects of 5alpha-androst-16-en-3alpha-ol on the pulsatile secretion of luteinizing hormone in human females

Axillary pheromones modulate pulsatile LH secretion in humans

Male axillary extracts contain pheromones that affect pulsatile secretion of luteinizing hormone and mood in women recipients

Preference for human body odors is influenced by gender and sexual orientation

Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model

Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors

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