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Ingredient in Male Goat Odor Literally Turns Females On

Update Date: Feb 27, 2014 06:30 PM EST

A certain citrus-scented ingredient in the odor of male goats literally turns female goats on, according to a new study.

Scientists said the latest study is the first to uncover a pheromone that activates the central reproductive axis. They explain that the scent acts on female goats' brains to trigger their reproductive system. While the latest study is on goats, researchers believe that the findings apply to other livestock.

Previous research reveals that the goat hair, and not urine, contains the "male effect" pheromone. Researchers found that organic solvent extracts of male goat hair retain that activity, but a specific primer pheromone remained unidentified. Researchers explain that primer pheromones are those that trigger the long-term physiological events required for ovulation and reproduction, as opposed to more immediate sexual behaviors triggered by releaser pheromones.

Lead researcher Yuji Mori of the University of Tokyo and his team analyzed components of that male essence, and particularly on the neutral fraction. They found that the male goat pheromone is primarily synthesized in the head skin. Researchers then collected the scent from normal and castrated male goats and chemically analyzed the samples they had.

The findings revealed several chemicals specific to intact male goats. They discovered that one chemical called the 4-ethyloctanal had the power to activate the gonadotropin-releasing hormone pulse generator in the female brain, which governs the reproductive endocrine system.

"In 4-ethyloctanal, we identified a novel chemical that had never been demonstrated in nature before. This was our first surprise," co-researcher Yukari Takeuchi said in a news release.

Researcher explained that 4-ethyloctanal oxidizes to 4-ethyloctanoic acid, a main ingredient of that "goaty odor" known for its role in attracting females to males.

"We are tempted to speculate that this is a clever reproductive strategy of the male goat to alter behavior and activity of the reproduction center in the female for mating by a single molecule," Takeuchi added.

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology

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