Sunday, April 18, 2021

Pardon Me, Do You Have Any Mouse Poupon?

Here’s a tasty new offering from researchers at the Centre des Sciences du Goût et de L’Alimentation in Dijon, France: “Male mice and cows perceive human emotional chemosignals: a preliminary study.”

How do you know if a mouse is perceiving chemosignals of human fear? It poops out more fecal pellets.

How do you know if a cow prefers chemosignals from nonstressed humans? It spends more time smelling the bucket that contains them.

How do you obtain these wondrous human chemosignals? The old cotton pads in the underarms gambit. You get some engineering students to abstain from stinky food and perfume for a few days (major sacrifice—this is France, after all) and wear the pads during a regular class (non-stress) and during an exam (stress).

What can I say? I admire the weirdness of the experimental design. I wonder if members of the ethics panel of the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research managed to keep a straight face during the review meeting.

Sidebar: The title of the paper mentions “male mice” and “cows,” when in fact the animals used were male mice and nulliparous female bovines. Shit-kicking American readers would expect “male mice and heifers,” but evidently the heifer vs cow distinction isn’t recognized in the editorial offices of Animal Cognition.

And finally, with apologies to the man from Nantucket:

There once was a heifer from Dijon,
Whose nostrils scientists seized on,
She found it a balm,
When the students smelled calm,
And the researchers gained a citation.

The study discussed here is “Male mice and cows perceive human emotional chemosignals: a preliminary study,” by Alexandra Destrez, Morgane Costes‑Thiré, Anne‑Sophie Viart, Floriane Prost, Bruno Patris and Benoist Schaal, published online in Animal Cognition, April 11, 2021.

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