The Sciences

NCBI ROFL: Smelly Week: Individually identifiable body odors are produced by the gorilla and discriminated by humans.

DiscoblogBy ncbi roflMar 1, 2011 12:00 AM

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It's smelly week on NCBI ROFL! All week long we'll feature the funniest papers about the science of stink. Enjoy! "Many species produce odor cues that enable them to be identified individually, as well as providing other socially relevant information. Study of the role of odor cues in the social behavior of great apes is noticeable by its absence. Olfaction has been viewed as having little role in guiding behavior in these species. This study examined whether Western lowland gorillas produce an individually identifiable odor. Odor samples were obtained by placing cloths in the gorilla's den. A delayed matching to sample task was used with human participants (n = 100) to see if they were able to correctly match a target odor sample to a choice of either: 2 odors (the target sample and another, Experiment 1) and 6 odors (the target sample and 5 others, Experiment 2). Participants were correctly able to identify the target odor when given either 2 or 6 matches. Subjects made fewest errors when matching the odor of the silverback, whereas matching the odors of the young gorillas produced most errors. The results indicate that gorillas do produce individually identifiable body odors and introduce the possibility that odor cues may play a role in gorilla social behavior."

Photo: flickr/derekkeats

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