Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Scent of an Elephant

Thanks goes to Criminally Stoopid blogger, Siren Song for this story idea.

Go Dumbo, it's your birthday...go Dumbo, it's your birthday...

It seems female Asian elephants strongly prefer the smell of a more experienced, older male. According to brand new research by scientists of the Oregon Health and Scinces University, when males enter their period of heightened aggressiveness and sexual activity (called musth), they release a cocktail of pheromones to attract the ladies.

"This study reveals the precision and specificity of inter-animal signaling possible," co-author Dr. L.E.L. "Bets" Rasmussen (pictured right), research professor of environmental and biomolecular systems, OHSU OGI School of Science & Engineering, said of the study published in the Dec. 22 edition of the journal Nature. "This is the first example, in mammals, of the use of this very precise signaling and ratio of enantiomers in signaling."

An enantiomer is one of a pair of chemical compounds whose molecular structures are mirror images of each other. Frontalin, a pheromone discharged during musth by male Asian elephants from a temporal gland located between the eye and ear, comes in two forms, each representing one half of the enantiomer pair and identified as either "plus" or "minus."

Adolescent males release more of the "plus" pheromone, adding more "minus" frontalin to the mixture as they age. When Asian males reach 20 years old, they make a perfectly balanced 1:1 ratio of the plus/minus pheromone...and it drives the females wild!

Researches examined ovulating females, and females that were either pregnant or in a non-reproductive "luteal" phase. They also tested young and old males. It found that low concentrations of frontalin, represented when the enantiomer ratio is more "plus" than "minus," was of mild interest to both young and old males, but when the ratio became balanced - equal amounts of plus and minus frontalin - males of all ages, as well as luteal-phase and pregnant females, were repulsed. Only ovulating females were attracted. Yeah baby! The study's results indicate that the ratio of frontalin enantiomers allows other elephants to distinguish both the maturity of male elephants in musth and the phase of musth. To humans, the balanced pheromone isn't so great. Imagine the smell of damp old socks with a hint of ripe ass.

How is this research beneficial? Research on sexual communication among elephants not only sheds light on animal behavior, but also may prove useful for "facilitating mating in livestock, horses, dogs [and other animals] by using odors for the arousal of males at appropriate times in the female cycle," Prestwich of OHSU says. The research contributes to "understanding the basic elements of odor perception in all animals, including humans," he adds.

Rasmussen says that by studying elephants, researchers can better understand how mammals in general utilize sex-attractant pheromones that affect behavior. In Asia, elephants are nortorious for raiding rice crops. Perhaps they will someday be able to devise a method of repelling elephants and prevent crop-raiding.

Also, elephants have matriarchal, multigenerational, stable societies in which 'cultural' information is passed from great-grandmothers to youngsters. Anthropologists and human behaviorists are interested in how elephants and other animals manage their societies so effectively and smoothly.

In the Asian elephant society, it seems the more mature man gets the girl.

Can this information be applied to humans? The study of human pheromones is really in it's infancy, but already we are just beginning to learn how pheromones dictate whom we are attracted to. As far as older male humans getting the girl, I'm not so sure. I think human society is different.

I just don't think the scent of an old man makes women swoon. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the smell of Old Spice mixed with Ben Gay and chili is NOT going to attract the ladies.


Mojotek said...

It is interesting to think about. Do we humans really get a lot of our 'attraction' to one another through pheremone or chemical means? I wonder if there's a percentage that we could link it to... like say 50% or less? Who knows, but it would be interesting to find out.

The Phoenix said...

I will be posting about human pheromones in the near future. It's fascinating, and it is amazing how these invisible signals direct our behavior.

Reiki said...

I do think pheromones definitely play a part in making someone seem more attractive. Supposedly women emit more pheromones when they are ovulating, so they will have more procreative sex.

That's why I spray my pheromone spray all over the house before we have showings. Maybe that's why people feel so at home here.

Of course, they probably just want to have sex here, not buy the dump. But it can't hurt...

Sherri said...

Very interesting. I have thought in depth about the human phermomone thing. I've seen the most unattractive men have women hanging all over them. And, there have been days where I get hit on like crazy by complete strangers. I know that I'm not that beautiful, it's gotta be something.

Eve said...

Give me the older, wiser man ANY DAY OF THE WEEK!

Young buck looks good...but doesn't know what he's doing...

the weirdgirl said...

Ben gay snd chili? Be still my beating heart! Throw in an open shirt and 70s gold chain and I'm all over those old fellas!

Sar said...

This was an interesting read, but your last line was freakin hilarious. I'll be looking for your human pheromones post.

Jim said...

young man = young buck scent.
old man = big bucks scent.
see: Smith, Anna Nicole

tubawench said...

Excellent post. I once had a professor who said that love was just little chemical reactions in our brain, or something to that effect. Of course his field was neuroscience, so he may have had a bias. In the little bit of research that I did as an undergrad, I discovered that female crickets prefer average males, in length and weight, at least.

grrrbear said...

The sight of the crazy old Six Flags man has effectively repulsed me from visiting any of their theme parks since he came out. I can't bring myself to enter them for fear I'll actually run into that embodiment of evil...

...too scary.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Hey, take it from an "old" 37 year old lady....older men have got it goin' on.

Been married to one for going on 14 years...;)

Big Pissy said...

Oh, yeah...older man got it going on :) Sweet Man is 9 years older than me. :)

But that little old man at the bottom of your post freaks me out in the comercials I've seen him in......

:P fuzzbox said...

So I take it that it isn't good for elephants to 'Smell like Teen Spirit.'

The Phoenix said...

Consensus: A lot of women dig older, more experienced men.

Also, the Six Flags guy is creepy.

delmer said...

Eating celery is supposed to do some phermone-related magic in men. That is, the man should eat the celery. (I read that in Men's Health a while back.)

And, I just read that a slightly sweaty man puts off some sort of attraction scent. (That test was, obviously, not run on Wells men.)

The Phoenix said...

Delmer's right...a guy that is sweating does put out a pheromone that a woman ovulating will take notice of.

Also, straight men and women found the scent of homosexual men least appealing whereas homosexual men chose their fellow homosexual scent appealing.

The whole pheromone is much too complex for broad generalizations at this time, however. It's a fascinating topic of science, and one I'm sure we're going to be hearing more of.

Andy Dabydeen said...

I have heard however, that the scent of old men, mixed with that of high denomination dollars, has made many females swoon.

Jim said...

the Six Flags guy is called "Mr. Six" -- better, I guess, that being known as "Mr. Five"

Bruce said...

Where are all these young women who dig older men? OK, my last g/f was 16 years younger than me, but now they've fallen off the radar. Come out, come out, wherever you are...

David Amulet said...

Thanks for pointing out which picture was Dr. Rasmussen. I thought perhaps she was one of the humping elephants until I saw your guidance.

-- david

KC said...

When I was 17 I fell in love with a man 11 years older than me. When I was 23 I dated a man 10 years older than me. When I was 27 I married a man only 3 years older than me. I have no point. Just thought I would mention it. hee-hee

siren said...

I'm not sure which photo was more disturbing...the elephant porn or the creepy six flags guy.

Grafs said...

Interestingly, when drugs are manufactured, the result contains 50% of the active enantiomer and 50% of it's useless mirror image. Sometimes the mirror image can cause adverse reactions. In organic chemistry they told me that scientists are working overtime to figure out a way to separate them.

Ben Heller said...


Thanks for explaining what Pheremones are.

I'm gonna buy some over the weekend and maybe hit on some lonely female elephants down the Pub.


Tasa said...

I'm aliiiivvveeeeeeeeeeeee.
What a story to come back to... how weird O_o;; I've heard something similar to this about girls on the birth control pill, and how it changes their smell so different guys are attracted to them... neat, huh?
You learn something new every day, yay!

Jillian said...

LOL Phoenix - this was areally funny one. I don't quite know what we get our attraction from though. But that is an interesting perspective ha ha!

The Phoenix said...

Some companies have said they have created pheromone products that make men irresistable to women. The problem is, what if you own natural pheromone mixes with the bottles stuff and you get something totally new that doesn't bring such favorable results?

Imagine a guy wearing his new pheromone spray and getting molested by a bunch of female Canadian geese.

Tasa - I hope you come by more often. It's been since, like, Halloween!

Dirk the Feeble said...

I wonder what Bets Rasmussen tells people that she does for a living when she goes to high school reunions.

Jamie Dawn said...

It's the scent of cold, hard cash that makes the ladies go wild at any age or at any time of their cycle.
I remember the cologne, Musk, being a big deal when I was a teen. I thought it smelled pretty raunchy and wouldn't wear it. But, I had friends who wore the stuff and smelled like muskrats with body odor. Not attractive at all. But maybe it was somehow sexy to the guys.. who knows????
I am happy for those older elephants. Woo-Hoo!!

Jenn said...

Old Spice *gag*

My friends get into that oil/perfume stuff that supposedly creates a smell according to your pheromones. I think it just makes their wrists shiny.

So, I have a question for you Phoenix... You think tattoo ink does anything to pheromones? Because they drive me wild!

Jenn said...

P.S. I think money smells nasty. In every way, shape and form. Money doesn't make ALL ladies go wild.

Jennifer said...

From an evolutionary standpoint it makes sense. Even human females tend to prefer more situated males (ones with jobs, potential etc) which in the animal kingdom, its harder for them to get that across. Men advertise in other ways. In a bar scene, men are more likely to display cell phones and other high tech gear like blackberrys, while women leave such devices in their purse. (research done in England)

Human pheromones do exist. We have a structure in our nose that picks up these signals. Its the same system that allows us to sense simularities in genetic makeup, illness (when someone is terminally ill, they give off a "scent" that is offensive) and familil relationship. Mothers and babies can identify each others clothing based on scent (resarch done in the states). Also, women are more likely to wander from her "stable" mate to find a more genetically "fit" mate while she is ovulating.

I can dig up the research if you want them. My undergrad focused on Evolutionary Psychology.

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