A rat’s nose knows more about your family than you might think. It seems that rats can identify genetically related humans by similarities in their body odour.
Erin Ables and colleagues at the University of Chicago familiarised rats with a human volunteer’s odour, then tested the length of their response to novel odours. The rats investigated odours from people who were genetically related to the volunteer for a shorter time than those who were unrelated. This supports the idea that closely related humans share similar odours, and that the odours have a genetic basis.
Previous work suggests that humans can also distinguish between the odours of their relatives and non-relatives. Ables speculates that this ability may help us avoid behaviours such as inbreeding. She presented her work at the Animal Behavior Society meeting last week in Snowbird, Utah. – newsci