Chemical and behavioural characterization of the rabbit mammary pheromone

Nature. 2003 Jul 3;424(6944):68-72. doi: 10.1038/nature01739.


Mammals owe part of their evolutionary success to the harmonious exchanges of information, energy and immunity between females and their offspring. This functional reciprocity is vital for the survival and normal development of infants, and for the inclusive fitness of parents. It is best seen in the intense exchanges taking place around the mother's offering of, and the infant's quest for, milk. All mammalian females have evolved behavioural and sensory methods of stimulating and guiding their inexperienced newborns to their mammae, whereas newborns have coevolved means to respond to them efficiently. Among these cues, maternal odours have repeatedly been shown to be involved, but the chemical identity and pheromonal nature of these cues have not been definitively characterized until now. Here we focus on the nature of an odour signal emitted by the female rabbit to which newborn pups respond by attraction and oral grasping, and provide a complete chemical and behavioural description of a pheromone of mammary origin in a mammalian species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / physiology*
  • Animals, Suckling / physiology*
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Female
  • Gases / analysis
  • Gases / chemistry
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / chemistry*
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Nipples / chemistry
  • Odorants / analysis
  • Pheromones / analysis
  • Pheromones / chemistry*
  • Pheromones / physiology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Rabbits
  • Smell / physiology*


  • Gases
  • Pheromones