Spots to Remember

Science Signaling  18 Dec 2012:
Vol. 5, Issue 255, pp. ec327
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2003879

Scent marking is an essential component of communication for most mammals. Individuals remember the location of scent marks and regularly revisit marked sites, presumably to assess the condition and status of the animal doing the marking. It is known that individuals can follow odor or pheromone gradients to locate another individual, but relocating scent marks is a much more difficult task given the small amount of volatile compounds deposited and their static nature. Roberts et al. showed that a nonvolatile component of male urine, the protein pheromone Darcin, stimulated spatial preference and learning in mice. Female mice preferred locations where male urine (or synthesized Darcin) had been found and remembered these spatial locations for 2 weeks after exposure.

S. A. Roberts, A. J. Davidson, L. McLean, R. J. Beynon, Jane L. Hurst, Pheromonal induction of spatial learning in mice. Science 338, 1462–1465 (2012). [Abstract] [Full Text]