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Biol Reprod. 2000 Sep;63(3):953-8.

Role of the vomeronasal organ in neonatal offspring recognition in sheep.

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Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort 0110, Republic of South Africa.


Twenty-five pregnant Dorsett ewes were randomly divided into three groups to test if ewes use their vomeronasal organs for offspring recognition during nursing. One group of eight ewes (procaine) were made anosmic by irrigation of the nasal olfactory apparatus with a zinc sulphate procaine solution. The second group of nine ewes (cauterized) had their vomeronasal organs rendered nonfunctional by cauterization of the nasoincisive duct. The third group of eight ewes were the controls. Parturition was synchronized in all ewes with betamethasone on Day 145 of gestation. Maternal responsiveness was tested two separate times with 1- to 2-day-old alien lambs. Each alien lamb trial was conducted 24 h apart. Cauterized ewes allowed alien lambs to suckle and they were unable to distinguish alien lambs from their own lambs, whereas the ewes in both groups with functional vomeronasal organs (procaine and control) violently rejected any alien lamb's attempt to suckle. Thus, female sheep use their vomeronasal organs for neonatal offspring recognition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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