Lemurs on the Pill Make Less Scents; Birth Control Disrupts Female Odors That Serve as Social Cues

By Milius, Susan | Science News, August 28, 2010 | Go to article overview

Lemurs on the Pill Make Less Scents; Birth Control Disrupts Female Odors That Serve as Social Cues


Milius, Susan, Science News


Putting a female lemur on birth control turns her normally informative scents to nonsense.

Doses of Depo-Provera, a human contraceptive also used in zoos and animal research, shift the odor secretions of female lemurs so dramatically that their scents no longer give clear cues to kinship, identity and genetic quality, says study coauthor Christine Drea of Duke University in Durham, N.C. A female lemur whose hormones are disrupted by contraceptives may have real trouble attracting a compatible mate, Drea reported July 26.

Drea and her colleagues have identified more than 300 compounds in the scent secretions of female lemurs. Glands on the forelimbs, tail and other parts of the body secrete chemical cues that the lemurs rub onto branches or other community bulletin boards where neighbors sniff out the news.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Working with 12 adult female ringtailed lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center, Drea and colleagues studied female genital odors by analyzing secretions chemically and observing animals' sniffing behaviors. …

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