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Brain Behav Evol. 1997;49(1):53-62.

Sensitivity and behavioral responses to the pheromone androstenone are not mediated by the vomeronasal organ in domestic pigs.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., USA.

Abstract

Based largely on results of studies of laboratory rodents, the vomeronasal or accessory olfactory system is believed to function mainly in social communication, mediating the effects of stimuli such as urine or glandular secretions on the behavior or endocrine response of conspecifics. In the domestic pig (Sus scrofa), the steroid androstenone has been identified as a pheromone that facilitates expression of both attraction to the male and a receptive mating stance in estrous females. Though the domestic pig is one of the few vertebrate species in which the identity of a compound that functions as a pheromone is known, the role of the vomeronasal system in domestic pigs has never been investigated. We have examined the role of the vomeronasal organ in mediating the pheromonal effects of androstenone in pigs. In addition, we have examined the structure of the vomeronasal organ at the gross and light-microscopic levels. The vomeronasal organ appears functional, with sensory epithelium lining the medial wall, and has access to stimuli from both the oral and nasal cavities. To determine whether the vomeronasal organ is necessary for androstenone detection or attraction or receptive behavior in female pigs, access to the vomeronasal organ was blocked with surgical cement, and androstenone detection threshold and sexual behavior were measured. Experimental animals did not differ significantly in androstenone sensitivity, measured behaviorally, from untreated controls. Vomeronasal organ-blocked animals also did not differ from untreated controls in either androstenone-mediated receptive standing behavior or attraction to the odor of androstenone. We conclude that in the domestic pig, the vomeronasal organ is not necessary for androstenone detection or androstenone-mediated sexual behavior in estrous females.

PMID:
8980852
DOI:
10.1159/000112981
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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