How do animals control pheromone communication? [Tutorial For Mom]

Contributors: Kate Fearon

Hey mom!!!! I just learned how animals control pheromone communication! I know it sounds confusing, but I can break it down for you! Here’s a little background to help you understand what pheromones are and why animals use them!-
Animals main way of communicating is through pheromones. The chemical signals are released and picked up through the sense of smell in some species, and in others it involves touch. Through touch the pheromones are passed directly to the other member of the species, while through the air the communication can be disrupted. The pheromones are split up into different categories like sex pheromones and aggregation pheromones. The pheromones that are released depends on what the goal is behind their communication.


Different animals have different preferences of how their pheromones are released. For example, some butterflys “deposit crystals of the pheromone danaidone from their hair pencils directly” to the female’s antennas. While some species pheromones are released and picked up through the air. I know this seems simple, but sometimes touch is all it takes for pheromones to reach another member of a species. Transferring pheromones through the air and smell has a lot more detail. Let me tell you about it!

Biologically, the chemicals of the pheromones are naturally released from one member of the species and are sensed by other members by using their olfactory organs. These are your organs used for smelling! Animals have two prominent olfactory organs known as the Main Olfactory Epithelium (MOE), and the Vomeronasal Organ (VNO). When the chemicals are in the air the MOE or the VNO of another member will detect the chemicals that make up the specific pheromones that are in the air. Once they are detected, the organ will send a signal to the olfactory nerves. The nerves then stimulate the hypothalamus which deals with emotions. When the scent has reached this far it will trigger the emotions that the individual sending pheromones was attempting to emit. Some examples are: attraction, sexual desire, arousal, and defense.


Whether or not pheromones are strong enough to be sensed is based on their size and polarity. Animals looking to communicate some distance produce airborne signals that are high in volatility (or solubility) and small in size. This ensures that the pheromones are dispersed rapidly and also makes the signals transient.



  1.  Brennan, P. A. (2010). Pheromones and Mammalian Behavior. Retrieved April 10, 2016, from                                                                                                             a) This source is very reliable. It does not state much about the author but the source has a very in depth list of references listed at the end of their work. They also include many intext citations which makes me believe that where they are getting their information from should be credible. It also has been reviewed by other people which increases it’s reliability.
    b) The publisher is listed at the bottom of the page and has the details for the reader to look them up if they were interested in finding out more about their work. It also gives the book ID number and where it is sold which makes me  that the publisher did a good job, considering it is for sale.
    c) This source is highly reliable.
  2.  McGlone, J. J. (n.d.). The Pheromone Site. Retrieved April 10, 2016, from This source is somewhat reliable. The author states that he has a Phd, but this does not contribute to making the source more reliable. Although there are multiple sources referenced at the end that make me believe it is more reliable than other sources.                                                                                                                                           b) I do not consider the publishing source to be very reliable because I do not see who had published it or any information about the publisher. If they were reliable they should have their name out there and information about them for the reader to look into to check their credibility.                                                                                    c) This source has a medium level of reliability.