Pheromones and signature mixtures

By: James V. Kohl | Published on: October 11, 2010

Comment by James Kohl: Before others adopt the defined term (detailed in the article cited below),  it should be recognized that there are age-related sex-dependent differences in the “signature mixtures” that this author details. Though they may indeed be a ‘receiver-side’ phenomenon, the age-related sex-dependent differences  allow non-human and human animals to distinguish immature and mature male pheromones from immature and mature female pheromones. Mature men and women respond accordingly.  A pheromone-enhanced fragrance product should add to the receiver’s ability to distinguish the most physically fit adult male or female. That’s how pheromones facilitate sexual expression and mate choice.  For example, the right “mixture” of androgenic (i.e., male) pheromones enhances the natural appeal of his “signature”. The right “mixture” of estrogenic (i.e., female) pheromones (a.k.a. copulins) enhances the natural appeal of her “signature”.  Genetically determined similarities and differences that are expressed as part of a signature mixture are comparable to differences in the immune system that are expressed during times of health and reproductive fitness, but also during times of illness or stress (when fitness is diminished). Definitions based on the heuristic value of separating chemical information into different types, may not be a good idea because the chemical information is not separated at the time it is received.
New article from:
Tristram D. Wyatt Pheromones and signature mixtures: defining species-wide signals and variable cues for identity in both invertebrates and vertebrates. Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology Volume 196, Number 10, 685-700.
Pheromones have been found in species in almost every part of the animal kingdom, including mammals. Pheromones (a molecule or defined combination of molecules) are species-wide signals which elicit innate responses (though responses can be conditional on development as well as context, experience, and internal state). In contrast, signature mixtures, in invertebrates and vertebrates, are variable subsets of molecules of an animal’s chemical profile which are learnt by other animals, allowing them to distinguish individuals or colonies. All signature mixtures, and almost all pheromones, whatever the size of molecules, are detected by olfaction (as defined by receptor families and glomerular processing), in mammals by the main olfactory system or vomeronasal system or both. There is convergence on a glomerular organization of olfaction. The processing of all signature mixtures, and most pheromones, is combinatorial across a number of glomeruli, even for some sex pheromones which appear to have ‘labeled lines’. Narrowly specific pheromone receptors are found, but are not a prerequisite for a molecule to be a pheromone. A small minority of pheromones act directly on target tissues (allohormone pheromones) or are detected by non-glomerular chemoreceptors, such as taste. The proposed definitions for pheromone and signature mixture are based on the heuristic value of separating these kinds of chemical information. In contrast to a species-wide pheromone, there is no single signature mixture to find, as signature mixtures are a ‘receiver-side’ phenomenon and it is the differences in signature mixtures which allow animals to distinguish each other.

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