An Introduction to Pheromones
You may have heard of the silk moth that can detect a female's presence from miles away. This is possible because the moth, like most animals, has the ability to detect pheromones, which are chemicals produced by other animals.
Technically speaking, a pheromone is an odorous chemical produced by an animal that affects the behavior of another animal. Some of the many behaviors affected by animal pheromones include, attracting or finding a mate, reproduction cycles, marking territory, warning of danger, and showing the way to food. Because pheromones can be influential on other living being they are probably one of the most ancient forms of communication.
Not unlike the hormones we produce in our own body that act as chemical messengers from one cell to another, pheromones work outside the body to send messages to other animals. From microorganisms to insects to mammals, almost all animals seem to have the ability to produce and detect these chemical messengers. In mammals, detection of pheromones is the job of the vomeronasal organ, which is two small tubes behind the nostril.
Most, but not all, pheromones are species-specific, meaning that you don't detect horse pheromones and they don't react to human pheromones. Though we detect pheromones through the olfactory organs, we do not "smell" them because in humans at least, most pheromones are odorless.
Though not proven highly effective at alluring the opposite sex as some products claim, experiments have shown that pheromones do affect human behavior as well. There is evidence that females may synchronize their menstrual cycles based on the presence of pheromones in other females' sweat. It has also been shown that female humans react to the continual presence of a male by an increase in fertile cycles, higher levels of estrogen and delayed menopause. This suggests that women react to male pheromones.
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