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Lemurs on contraceptives don’t smell right

Birth control disrupts female odors that are important social cues

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Putting a female lemur on birth control turns her normally informative scents to nonsense, researchers report.

Doses of Depo-Provera, a common contraceptive for people, shift the odor secretions of female lemurs so dramatically that their scents no longer give clear cues to kinship, identity and genetic quality, says study coauthor Christine Drea of Duke University in Durham, N.C.

A female lemur whose hormones are disrupted by contraceptives may have real trouble attracting a compatible mate, Drea said July 26 at the annual meeting of the Animal Behavior Society.

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