Monday, 8 October 2012

Baby Mice Learn Mom's Smell to Suckle

Newborn mice need to learn the smell of their moms' natural perfume to suckle and survive, according to new research.

Previous studies on rabbits suggested that for mammal babies, a mom's pheromones (chemical signals used to communicate in some way) triggered a hard-wired response to latch on. But the new study, published Oct. 4 in the journal Current Biology, found that the smell is instead learned. At birth, a newborn mouse is exposed to the odor of its mother's amniotic fluid and that same scent in the mom's signature smell causes the baby to start suckling, the researchers said.

"Surprisingly, unlike the rabbit, we found no evidence of a classic pheromone in the mice," Lisa Stowers, of The Scripps Research Institute, explained in a statement. "Instead, we found that the pup 'learns' the individual scent blend of the mom. Every mom is likely to have a different signature odor."

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