"Long before it's in the papers"
June 04, 2013


Monkeys using perfume? Study investigates

Nov. 17, 2006
Special to World Science  

Move over Ralph Lau­ren, Dol­ce & Gab­bana and oth­er pur­vey­ors of gla­m­or per­fumes. The next rage in fra­grance may be Eau de spi­der mon­key.

Sci­en­tists have been re­porting sight­ings of wild spi­der mon­keys rub­bing them­selves with chewed-up leaves that may func­tion as per­fumes.
Although it’s un­pro­ven that they do it spe­ci­fi­cal­ly to take on an aro­ma, mount­ing ev­i­dence points that way, the in­vest­i­ga­t­ors say.

Black-handed spider monkey (courtesy rainforestanimals.com)

The scents “may play a role in the con­text of so­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pos­si­bly for sig­nal­ing of so­cial sta­tus or to in­c­rease sex­u­al at­trac­t­ive­ness,” sci­en­tists wrote in the Nov. 14 ad­vance on­line is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Pri­ma­tes.

In the report, Lau­ra Her­nán­dez-Sa­la­zar of Ve­ra­cruz Uni­ver­si­ty in Me­xi­co and col­leagues de­s­c­ribed watch­ing a group of 10 free-ranging black-hand­ed spi­der mon­keys for a to­tal of 250 hours. 

The species, formally named Ate­les ge­of­froyi, is one of four spe­cies of spi­der mon­keys—small, ac­ro­bat­ic pri­mates that fling them­selves among tree­tops and live be­t­ween sou­th­ern Bra­zil and cen­t­ral Mex­i­co. 

Working in Mexico, the re­search­ers re­cord­ed “20 epi­sodes of self-an­oint­ing, that is, the ap­pli­ca­tion of scent-bear­ing ma­te­ri­al on­to the body,” all by two males. 

“The an­i­mals used the leaves of three spe­cies of plants,” in­clud­ing wild cel­ery, they wrote. “The leaves of all three plant spe­cies spread an in­ten­sive and ar­o­mat­ic odor when crushed.”

Wild celery (courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

To show that the mish­mash in­deed func­tions as a sort of co­logne, re­search­ers would have to dem­on­s­trate that it isn’t be­ing used for a dif­fer­ent pur­pose. Pri­mates and oth­er an­i­mals are wide­ly re­ported to use cer­tain plants as med­i­ca­tions, and some­times rub them­selves with nat­u­ral sub­stances that act as bug re­pel­lents.

However, a small but grow­ing num­ber of re­search­ers in re­cent years have ar­gued that some an­i­mals may an­oint them­selves with scents for so­cial pur­poses.

Her­nán­dez-Sa­la­zar’s team found, in ac­cord with a past study, that the spi­der mon­keys swiped the fra­grant mix on­ly on their arm­pits and breast­bone ar­eas, and that this oc­curred in­de­pen­d­ent­ly of time of day, sea­son, tem­per­a­ture or hu­mid­i­ty. The pre­vious stu­dy—pub­lished in 2000—also found, con­sis­tent with the new one, that males do it more of­ten than females.

All these con­sid­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to the auth­ors of both stu­dies, clash with the idea that the lo­tions func­tion as bug re­pel­lents or skin med­i­ca­tions.

Her­nán­dez-Sa­la­zar’s group recorded three plants being used: the Alamos pea tree, Brong­niar­tia alam­osa­na; the trum­pet tree Ce­cro­pia ob­tu­si­fo­lia; and wild cel­ery, Api­um gra­ve­olens. The 2000 study, by Chris­ti­na J. Camp­bell of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ca­li­for­nia, Ber­ke­ley, found Ate­les ge­of­froyi in Pa­na­ma us­ing three other plants. All from the Ru­ta­ceae or ci­t­rus fa­m­i­ly, these in­c­luded key lime.

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If monkeys are using perfume maybe you should too. But don't spend high prices when you can easily find discount perfume and discount cologne online. Get famous brand name discount fragrances at off-brand prices. You won't be sorry when you see how people react to your new, fabulous fragrance. If you don't want to smell like a monkey you should get some perfume or cologne today.

Move over Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana and other purveyors of glamor perfumes. The next rage in masculine fragrance might be Eau de spider monkey. Scientists reported seeing two wild, male members of this primate group repeatedly dabbing themselves with something that seemed hard to describe as anything other than home-made cologne. The crushed-leaf scents “may play a role in the context of social communication, possibly for signaling of social status or to increase sexual attractiveness,” the researchers wrote in the Nov. 14 issue of the research journal Primates. The researchers, Matthias Laska and colleagues of the University of Munich Medical School described watching a group of free-ranging Mexican black-handed spider monkeys over a 250-hour period. In that time, they recorded “20 episodes of self-anointing, that is, the application of scent-bearing material onto the body,” they wrote. “The animals used the leaves of three species of plants,” including wild celery, for the surprising rituals, the researchers reported. The animals would mix the crushed leaves with saliva before rubbing it on themselves, they continued. “The leaves of all three plant species spread an intensive and aromatic odor when crushed.” The monkeys swiped the fragrant paste only on their armits and breastbone areas, Laska and colleagues noted, and the occurrences of this were independent of time of day, season, temperature or humidity. All these considerations together, they added, clash with the notion that the substance might function as an insect repellent or a sort of skin self-medication. The black-handed spider monkey, Ateles geoffroyi, is one of four species of spider monkeys, small, very acrobatic primates with long, slender limbs that live between southern Brazil and central Mexico. They travel in small bands by making huge leaps among the treetops, sprawling out like spiders and grasping branches with their tails, which they use as a “fifth hand.” Their diet includes fruits and nuts. The black-handed monkeys “bark” when threatened, and often hurl branches, jump up and down, and shake branches upon the approach of humans. The plant species used were the Alamos pea tree, Brongniartia alamosana; the trumpet tree Cecropia obtusifolia; and wild celery, Apium graveolens.