When selecting mates, we tend to prefer individuals with odors that compliment our particular immune-related molecules, according to the researchers.
“The present wisdom of evolutionary biology is that we and other animals reproduce sexually because only in this way can we survive the race with infectious diseases,” Milinski said. “This means choosing a partner with complementary immunogenes is the purpose of sexual selection. Probably, in all vertebrates, information about one’s immunogenes is transmitted by smell. Thus odor is extremely important.”
For ages, people have selected perfumes, colognes and other scents to enhance their own natural odor. In many cases, individuals probably successfully created “love potions” in this trial-by-error way by subconsciously making the right natural compound matches.
Many of today’s perfumes and colognes, however, are made with manufactured chemical ingredients.
The researchers believe they have overcome that fake perfume problem by synthesizing chemicals that “are identical to the original” chemical structures of natural human body odors. These make possible future love potion fragrances, tailor designed for individuals.
Men might want to take note: Other research found that female mammals follow their noses to the right mates. Cambridge zoologist Tim Clutton-Brock and Harvard researcher Katherine McAuliffe found that olfactory cues are critical for females seeking mates.
Although humans preen, strut and sometimes sing, birds have evolved more elaborate visual and sound systems for mating, such as complex peacock tails and singing ability among all individuals of some species.
Clutton-Brock and McAuliffe therefore think that many mammals seeking mates rely more upon their ability to sniff out good genetic matches.