Love at First Smell

Why do some males smell better than others? Scientists at Cardiff University, in collaboration with colleagues at Max-Plank Society, Germany – and the help of stickleback fish – have identified the chemical responsible.

The researchers found in a study of sticklebacks, that males with body odour that is particularly attractive to females produce small protein fragments (known as “peptides”).

To prove this, the researchers produced a synthetic “perfume” containing a mixture of protein fragments. By manipulating the combination of fragments in the perfume, the sexual attractiveness of males could be increased. In the experiment none of the females being tested could see the males. Even males previously rejected by females were rendered irresistible after the synthetic perfume had been applied.