New research at Michigan State University shows that bile salts, secreted from the liver and traditionally associated with digestive functions, are being used as pheromones by sea lampreys. The interesting twist, though, is that this scent has evolved as the invasive species’ cologne of choice.
The evolution of bile salts from digestive aid to pheromone, featured in the current issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, mirrors humans’ adaptation of perfume.
“It’s similar to how perfume has evolved in our society,” said Tyler Buchinger, one of the lead authors and MSU doctoral student. “Perfume was first used to mask body odor due to a societal stigma against daily bathing. Today, in many cases, it exemplifies romance and is used to attract mates.”