An unexpected finding may settle an ongoing scientific debate by providing evidence that key reproductive behaviors in mice arise predominantly, if not exclusively, from olfactory input instead of input from the vomeronasal, visual, or auditory senses.
The results, from a team led by Harvard biologist Catherine Dulac, appear on the Web site of the journal Cell and were published in the journal’s Nov. 18, 2005 issue.
“It’s always interesting when there is a surprise finding,” says Dulac, professor of molecular and cellular biology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “Most biology textbooks now say that pheromones affecting reproductive behavior in nonhuman mammals are detected by the vomeronasal organ, while the nose processes all other odors. Our work suggests quite convincingly that the mouse nose processes both pheromones and other scents, and in fact provides much or all of the chemosensory input that drives mating.”
In addition to funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.