Gorillas Can Use B.O. to Say "Back Off!": Page 2


The fact that Makumba could quickly turn this scent on and off in subtly different social contexts suggests that the ability was at least under some conscious control and not just an automatic response to fear or arousal, Lee said.

Anthony discusses how Koko the Gorilla and some other animals show promising signs of a sense of humor.

Makumba's ability also suggests that scent plays a greater role in primate communication than previously thought. It's possible that other apes, such as chimpanzees, also may use similar scent broadcasting, and humans are known to communicate with smell as well, Lee said.

"We all use scent to communicate all kinds of emotions and desires — which we enhance with perfumes," Lee said.

Animals with Bigger Brains Have More Self-Control

The findings are "mind-boggling," because primates rely so much less on their sense of smell than other animals, said Mireya Mayor, a primatologist with the Centre ValBio at Stonybrook University in New York, who was not involved in the study.

"The most surprising part is that they're able to suppress and consciously control scent," Mayor told Live Science. But though it seems strange to imagine consciously dialing body odor up or down, humans can consciously control basic physiological processes such as heart rate, and humans are genetically quite close to gorillas, Mayor said.

The findings were published today (July 9) in the journal PLOS ONE.

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