The Loh Down On Science

Why mice cry will surprise you!

Can a new fragrance make guys … turn tail and run?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet David Ferrero from Harvard Medical School.  He identified a peculiar chemical in mouse tears.  Awww!  The chemical is a pheromone.  That's a scent molecule that conveys information, like gender, to others.  Interestingly, only little boy and girl mice produce it.  And once they hit puberty?  It disappears. 

What could be its purpose? 

To, "sniff" that out, Ferrero held an underage mouse party, then introduced adults.  What happened?  Absolutely nothing.  But when he brought in males that couldn’t detect the scent?  They immediately had their little paws over all the young females!  Gross!  Then, when he sprayed the scent on attractive adult females?  Even normal males ignored them.

So that molecule?  It’s an age-specific signal that says:  I’m a baby, not a babe!  That’s right!  Immature mice wear anti-pedophile perfume!   This keeps adults focused on the right stuff, so to speak.  And that’s better for the species.

In mice, it’s called ESP-22.  In humans?  Chanel Number ... 25 years to life.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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