Pheromonal release of suckling in rabbits does not depend on the vomeronasal organ

Physiol Behav. 1986;37(1):123-8. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(86)90394-x.


Newborn rabbits are completely dependent on a pheromone present on the mother's belly for the release of the highly stereotyped nipple-search behavior and for nipple attachment. Surgical removal of the vomeronasal organ had no effect on pups' ability to respond to the pheromone when tested on a lactating female, nor on their ability to obtain milk in the normal nursing situation. Lesioned pups could also learn to associate the odor of citral with nipple-search behavior when nursed by a citral-scented doe. In contrast, irrigating the nasal mucosa with ZnSO4 completely eliminated responsiveness both to the pheromone and to the conditioned odor of citral. This is of particular interest given the important role attributed to the accessory olfactory system in pheromonal perception. However, it might be necessary to distinguish between pheromones associated with suckling and therefore peculiar to mammals, and other pheromones.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Female
  • Nasal Mucosa / innervation*
  • Nasal Septum / innervation
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Pheromones / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rabbits
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Sucking Behavior / physiology*


  • Pheromones