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Primates are genereally viewed upon as “visual” animals, with a poorly developed sense of smell. This categorazation has mainly been based on an interpretation of anatomical features, such as the relative or absolute size of the brain structures involved in olfaction  or on genetic features such as the number of functional olfactory receptor genes which, among primates, are relatively low.  However, several studies have recently shown that the olfactory sense indeed plays an important role for primates.

Amino acids are known to evoke taste sensations and therefore contribute to the flavor of food. However, very little is known about the olfactory properties of amino acids and their potential contribution to the flavor of food via retronasal smelling. Amino acids are known to act as ligands for olfactory receptors, and also act as olfactory cues in a number of non-human species.

The perception of an odor has been shown to depend on the molecular structure of a substance  and thus the L- and D-form of cysteine, methionine and proline were used, to assess the impact of chirality on olfactory detection. These particular substances had previously been tested on and recognized by humans, which led to the assumption that also spider monkeys would be able to detect them. Thus, the aim of this study was to collect data to determine the olfactory sensitivity of amino acids for spider monkeys.  

Responsible for this page: Agneta Johansson
Last updated: 04/29/14