Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

’Eau de dad’ woos women

21.01.2002


Genes mean ladies like friends and partners that smell like their father.


Nice smile but does he smell like dad?
© Photodisc



Bachelors - ditch the Old Spice and don your prospective father-in-law’s clothes. Women prefer the scent of their dad, a study shows, and may choose their friends and partners accordingly.

Nervous new boyfriends can live or die by the nod of a date’s daunting dad. But Carole Ober and her team at the University of Chicago in Illinois have found a more fundamental fatherly influence: women prefer the smells of men whose gene selection matches their dad’s1.


Could this be a female Oedipus complex? "It’s possible we would choose someone who smells like our dad," says team member Martha McClintock. If so, it could help women choose partners who share a selection of their own healthy genes, rather than a total stranger, whose vigour is unknown.

Equally, women could favour friends and workmates who have a paternal perfume. The dad partiality may have evolved to help people recognize and look after unfamiliar members of their own extended family.

Wayne Potts, of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, favours the latter idea. "There are dozens of other reasons to choose partners," he says. When smells are judged out of context, it is difficult to know how this would affect everyday behaviour, he warns.

Sniffing the sheets

Women in Ober’s study snuffed men’s two-night-old T-shirts. "Think of what your pillow and sheets smell like," suggests McClintock. These scents were presented to women, disguised in a box, alongside faint household odours such as clove, bleach and fresh laundry.

Men in the line-up each carried a different array of MHC genes, which are involved in fighting disease. Like vacillating brides, women were asked which scent they would choose if they had to smell it for the rest of their lives.

Women chose the scent of men whose array of MHC genes was similar to their own, the team found. The similar genes also matched, and were inherited from, the woman’s father.

Their choice was not down to familiarity with the odour from childhood. Women did not prefer the smell of a man whose MHC genes matched their father’s but not their own. If the preference were based simply on memory of the father’s smell, women would be less picky. "The genes are driving the preference," says McClintock.

Same but different

Each person carries a unique combination of MHC genes, which help to recognize foreign cells in the body. An earlier smelly T-shirt study showed that women choose men whose selection is different from their own2. This seems to conflict with Ober’s study, in which women preferred a whiff of genetic similarity.

Inbreeding with genetically similar partners can cause problems in children - but outbreeding with partners whose genes are totally different can also spell trouble. Choosing partners with an intermediate blend of disease-fighting genes may give future children the best chance of survival, the team suggests.

References

  1. Jacob, S., McClintick, M.K., Zelano, B., & Ober, C. Paternally inherited HLA alleles are associated with women’s choice of male odor. Nature Genetics, DOI: 10.1038/ng830 (2002).
  2. Wedekind, C., Seebeck, T., Bettens, F. & Paepke, A.J. MHC-dependent mate preferences in humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 260, 245 - 249, (1995).


HELEN PEARSON | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/020114/020114-13.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>