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The Essence of Male Goat Really Turns the Females On

As one of the most sensitive sensation, smell plays a vital role in love and romance. Many animals, especially insects, rely on pheromone to send messages to their colonies. More complex creatures, such as human, also obey the rule. Not only can women send forth different smells during various physiological stage, but also can men’s smells provoke females. However, most of the currently discovered pheromone are sterone or sterol, and recently, scientists from University of Tokyo found that the 4-ethyloctanal from male goats helps a lot when mating. The new findings have been published on journal Current Biology. [1]


Chemical structures of previously discovered sterol pheromone—Epitiostanol (left) and the recently found 4-ethyloctanal (right).

Since male goats rely more on their hair, instead of the urine, to spread the smell, the researchers developed a custom-made head cap to capture their smell. After the male goats being donned with the head cap for one week, the researchers collected volatile from both normal and castrated males. Several molecules were identified through gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy. Then, they monitored the real-time excitability of nerve cells that are responsible for secretion of Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) when the females smelt different odors from various molecules—GnRH facilitates hypophysis to release Gonadotropin and hence accelerates gonad development and brings females into a physiological status called oestrus.

mechanism of 4-ethyloctanal

A possible mechanism of 4-ethyloctanal. Read more from: Murata et al. (2014) Current Biology.

 “We identified a novel chemical—4-ethyloctanal—that had yet been demonstrated in nature before. That was our first surprise,” says Professor Takeuchi Yukari who led the study.

What’s more, the oxidized form of 4-ethyloctanal, 4-ethyloctanoic acid, is a main ingredient of the “goaty odor” known for decades for its role in attracting females. Attract potential mates and then lead them to speed oestrus… “We are tempted to speculate that it is a smart reproductive strategy of the male goats to alter behavior and activity of the reproduction center in the females for mating by a single molecule,” says Professor Yukari. Since mammals have similar structure and function in the reproduction center in brains, human may have a similar case to that of goats—but this calls for further investigation.


  1. Murata et al., Identification of an Olfactory Signal Molecule that Activates the Central Regulator of Reproduction in Goats. Current Biology (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.073

Source: EurekAlert

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