Pheromones are hormones that are released by animals and insects in all walks of life. Even humans have pheromones that are detectable by other human beings as well as by animals. These are not only meant to attract potential mates and even signal potential enemies that they should back away, but they are also used as a form of communication.
This is true with rodents as well. Whether a rodent lives in a large colony, like rats do, or a solitary life style, like a raccoon, pheromones play an important role in helping them to communicate with one another and with other animals around them. This is because communicating audibly is not always necessarily the best option in terms of being able to allow a mate to know that the rodent is available or to deter rivals from approaching within a region that a rodent is claiming as its own.
For the rodents, there are a few different types of pheromones that are essential in helping it to communicate.
The first of these are the releaser pheromones, which are used to let other rodents know that they are invading upon that particular rodent’s territory. This is important no matter whether you are talking about a rodent that lives on its own or one that lives in a large colony. Rats and mice released this pheromone as do possums and raccoons. It plays an essential role in communication to warn other males to stay away during the mating.
Primer pheromones are ones that are released primarily when both the male and female are at their peak periods in the year and want to let potential mates know that they are available for mating. In the male’s case, he releases this to let a female no that he is interested in pursuing her. The female releases her own pheromones letting a male no that she is available for mating. Once the two have released their pheromones, they are more attracted to one another and mating can occur.
As a kind of sad note, there are many instances where the male’s primer pheromones were so strong that they actually caused a female who was already impregnated to miscarry. This is one of the oddities of nature that makes it so that one male can actually affect another male’s child inside the womb of the female.
The other kind of pheromone is the information type. This is not used directly for communication, but is instead used to learn about other kinds of animals that may be in the area. This is usually released around some other kind of animal by the rodent, and then the rodent continues to smell until it learns a great deal more about the animal that is within its area.
In some rodents, this pheromone is also released to allow other species of that rodent to know that the animal is sick. This is important when a rodent lives in a large colony where an illness could be life-threatening to hundreds if not thousands of rodents.
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