D'scent of man: A comparative survey of primate chemosignaling in relation to sex

Journal Article (Review)

© 2014. This article is part of a Special Issue (Chemosignals and Reproduction).As highly visual animals, primates, in general, and Old World species (including humans), in particular, are not immediately recognized for reliance in their daily interactions on olfactory communication. Nevertheless, views on primate olfactory acuity and the pervasiveness of their scent signaling are changing, with increased appreciation for the important role of body odors in primate social and sexual behavior. All major taxonomic groups, from lemurs to humans, are endowed with scent-producing organs, and either deposit or exude a wealth of volatile compounds, many of which are known semiochemicals. This review takes a comparative perspective to illustrate the reproductive context of primate signaling, the relevant information content of their signals, the sexually differentiated investigative responses generated, and the behavioral or physiological consequences of message transmission to both signaler and receiver. Throughout, humans are placed alongside their relatives to illustrate the evolutionary continuum in the sexual selection of primate chemosignals. This ever-growing body of evidence points to a critical role of scent in guiding the social behavior and reproductive function throughout the primate order. •I review the role of olfactory communication in primate reproduction.•Signaler features include gland morphology, marking behavior, and semiochemistry.•Receiver responses indicate perception and functionality of odors.•Species comparisons reveal an evolutionary continuum in sexual selection of odors.•Odor signals guide mate choice in primates, including humans.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Drea, CM

Published Date

  • February 1, 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 68 /

Start / End Page

  • 117 - 133

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1095-6867

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0018-506X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2014.08.001

Citation Source

  • Scopus