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Evolved development of olfactory systems

Posted on January 15, 2013 by James Kohl.

Mutual influences between the main olfactory and vomeronasal systems in development and evolution Rodrigo Suárez, Diego García-González, and Fernando de Castro Published on 24 December 2012 Frontiers in Neuroanatomy

excerpt 1) “…the MOS and VNS play synergistic roles in the regulation of a range of olfactory-guided behaviors, from foraging and defensive contexts to reproductive and social interactions, and show overlap in some of their central projections.”

excerpt 2) “… the structure and function of these systems, as we observe today in extant mammals, are the result of mutual interactions under changing ecological scenarios, which can be traced back to their origins in the evolution of vertebrates.”

excerpt 3) “…olfaction in birds participates in recognition of gender (Balthazart and Taziaux, 2009) and individual identity of conspecifics (Coffin et al., 2011), as well as in foraging (Mardon et al., 2010) and navigation behavior (Gagliardo et al., 2011).”

My comment: The idea that we are more like birds than mammals continues to represent the most inaccurate approach to the study of adaptively evolved human behavior that I can imagine. It is, however, the view largely promoted — especially among participants in the human ethology yahoo group.  The ISHE group’s moderator, Jay R. Feierman likes to divorce structure and function, which obscures or obfuscates what has become neuroscientifically established in the decades after early ethologists first began to ignore the role of olfaction in birds. Feierman continue to ignore my posts to the ISHE group.

For example of  content being ignored, see below:
“Shepherd (2006) has summarized recent olfactory/pheromonal research findings and clarified concerns with regards to an ongoing debate about the presence or absence of a functional human vomeronasal organ (VNO).  Both the main olfactory pathway and VNO-enabled accessory olfactory pathway process pheromones, so there is no need for a human VNO.  Further, he stated that “We have much more to learn about how intimately neuroendocrine functions, controlled by pheromones, acting through our noses, interact with other operations within the brain to control human behaviour and cognition (p. 151).”  Terms like “odor cues governing behaviour” (Choosing the perfect mate, 1993) or neuroendocrine functions “controlled by pheromones” that may “control human behaviour and cognition” (Shepherd, 2006), when referring to the role of olfactory/pheromonal sensory input in human behavior and cognition, represent a paradigm shift with regard to the likely influence of human chemical communication on sexual preferences and sexual behavior.  Clearly, olfactory/pheromonal input is intimately involved in human behavior.” — This is an excerpt from an open access article published 6 years ago:  Kohl (2006).

As other have begun to recognize the role of olfactory/pheromonal input in foraging and defensive contexts and in reproductive and social interactions, I can only wonder how much longer it will be until the “bird watchers” realize that the molecular mechanisms of how olfactory/pheromonal input epigenetically effects adaptively evolved behaviors are the same in species from microbes to man, and species of birds are included.




James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl

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What is the vomeronasal organ (VNO)?

The vomeronasal organ (VNO) is a cone-shaped organ in the nasal cavity, which is believed to be one of the body's receptors of pheromones. More, specifically, the VNO, which is part of the accessory olfactory system in the nose, does not respond to normal scents, but may detect odorless, barely perceptible pheromones.

Other schools of thought believe that it is not the VNO but rather cells in our main olfactory system and their affects on hormones secreted by the hypothalamus that are responsible for the affects of pheromones.

Learn more about the science behind pheromones here.

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Optimized pheromones for men are scientifically proven to bring about an increase in the luteinizing hormone (LH) in women, thereby causing a woman to have a heightened sexual responsiveness to a man. This LH surge elevates a woman's predisposition towards sexual activity.

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