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The olfactory system: the remote-sensing arm of the immune system

, Loren Skow

Abstract: Odors may be pleasant or unpleasant and in practice, pleasant odors are attractive while unpleasant odors are repellent. However, an odor that is noxious to one species may be attractive to another. Plants, predators, and pathogens may enhance their transmission by manipulating these signals. This may be especially significant when odors attract arthropod disease vectors. Odor detection may also be important in small prey species for evasion of macropredators such as large carnivores. Conversely, pleasant odors may identify family members, parents, or sexual partners. They may also generate signals of good health or fitness and contribute to the process of mate selection. In this review, we seek to integrate these odor-driven processes into a coherent pattern of behaviors that serve to complement the innate and adaptive immune systems. It may be considered the ‘behavioral immune system’.
Keywords: Macropredation / MHC molecules / olfactory receptors

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