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Article Released Wed-21st-December-2005 19:01 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Sexual signalling: Mature elephants hit on right scent recipe

Male Asian elephants are famed for their annual bouts of heightened sexual activity and aggression, during which they produce a delicately concocted, notoriously pungent cocktail of chemicals to advertise their mating status.

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VOL.438 NO.7071 DATED 22 DECEMBER 2005

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Sexual signalling: Mature elephants hit on right scent recipe

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[9] Sexual signalling: Mature elephants hit on right scent recipe
(pp1097-1098)

Male Asian elephants are famed for their annual bouts of heightened sexual
activity and aggression, called 'musth', during which they produce a
notoriously pungent cocktail of chemicals to advertise their mating status.
New research shows that this recipe is delicately concocted - more mature
males impress females by including a balance of different versions of a
particular pheromone.

This pheromone, called frontalin, exists in two molecular 'mirror-image'
forms, explain Elizabeth Rasmussen and her colleagues in a Brief
Communication in this week's Nature. Young males tend to produce secretions
that predominantly contain just one of these two chemical forms. But more
mature males advertise their dominant status by achieving an equal balance
of the two.

Secretions containing a 1:1 mixture of the two forms were more attractive to
females, the researchers report, indicating that this subtle balance of
chemicals might help females to distinguish between males of differing
status. Female receptor molecules for these pheromones also come in two
mirror-image forms, suggesting that cleverly mixed mating cocktails could
reach the parts that others do not.

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Elizabeth Rasmussen (Oregon Health & Sciences University, Beaverton, OR, USA)
Tel: +1 503 748 1263, E-mail: betsr@ebs.ogi.edu

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