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The Golden Shower

February 28, 2011

Torah Kachur

Our sense of smell has a undeniable role in sexual arousal, from oxytocin to that sexy smell just called 'man'.  In the case of the capuchin monkey, attaining this irresistable the smell of maleness is pretty simple:  a pee bath.  

 

Several different species of New World monkey have been observed giving themselves golden showers, mostly just by washing their hands and feet in their own urine.  Various explanations for this behaviour have floated around in recent years including that it forms some sort of deference ritual to prevent aggression - like a 'look at me, I'll wash in my own urine so I'm no threat' or that it's the monkey's form of spitting on their hands to get a better grip.  These hypotheses persisted mostly because no one really wanted to believe that urine washing was all about sex (despite everything being about sex).

 

      Capuchin Urine Wash Science in Seconds Pheromones Torah Kachur

 

Then someone came along and suggested that females actually liked the male monkeys that soiled themselves.  Kimran Miller from the University of Iowa suggested that the urine wash was a capuchin's Drakkar Noir - the irresistable smell of manliness.  This hypothesis was mostly driven by the observation that alpha male monkeys often doubled their urine washing when surrounded by females, which could have constituted an evolutionary advantage or a very strange nervous tick.

 

ResearchBlogging.org

And now, new research led by Kimberely Phillips at Trinity University in Texas is telling us what we really don't want to hear:  that female monkeys like the smell of piss.  fMRI analysis of female brain scans showed significant differences in activity levels of brains exposed to juvenile or adult male urine.  In particular, the brain centers involved in processing olfactory cues showed much higher activity when exposed to the heavenly smell of stud piss, instead of their young-punk counterparts.

 

 

In defense of the capuchins, the smell of piss has long been a way for animals to broadcast fertility and territory - male dogs mark their territory with their scent and female elephants broadcast their oestrus period with pheromones in their urine.  But no other animal have been observed actually using it as bath water.  Perhaps the urine wash by capuchins actually signifies their intelligence and recognition of the power of piss.... or it's just kinda gross.

 

This research adds an entirely different meaning to "Eau de Toilette".

 

Phillips, K., Buzzell, C., Holder, N., & Sherwood, C. (2011). Why do capuchin monkeys urine wash? An experimental test of the sexual communication hypothesis using fMRI American Journal of Primatology DOI: 10.1002/ajp.20931

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