Sex hormones of mammals control the expression of sexual characteristics and bodily functions. The male hormone testosterone and the female hormones progesterone and estradiol are known to occur in urine markings of mice. Here, we show that all three hormones are also present in urine of brown rats, and that they are effective sexual communication signals (pheromones) that elicit attraction behavior of prospective mates in both brown rats and house mice. When added as lures to trap boxes in field experiments, synthetic testosterone, for example, increased captures of adult female mice 15-fold, and a blend of progesterone and estradiol increased captures of male mice eightfold and male rats 13-fold. Remarkably, these hormones increased captures even though the food- and pheromone-based baits to which they were added had previously been shown to be superior to current commercial rodent attractants. We predict that these sex hormones will function as sex attractant pheromones in diverse taxa.
Keywords: brown rats; field testing; hormones; house mice; pheromones; rodent control.
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