Fight or flee, it’s in the pee

Researchers get a better understanding of how mice smell a rat, or a cat

By Rachel Ehrenberg, 10:57 AM May 14, 2010

The smell of a protein found in urine leaves mice quaking with fear when they smell it coming from cats and rats, scientists report in the May 14 Cell. Yet when mice smell the same protein coming from other mice, the odor prompts mouse-on-mouse aggression.

What signals the mice to flee in one instance and fight in the other isn’t clear, but the find suggests that the animals have adapted an existing sensory communication system to interpret the scent of danger.

Most animals are hardwired ...

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