Saliva as a chemical cue in the development of social behavior

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Science  06 Mar 1981:
Vol. 211, Issue 4486, pp. 1062-1064
DOI: 10.1126/science.7466378


Throughout development, Mongolian gerbils engage in conspicuous naso-oral investigations of their social partners' mouth areas. The behavioral contribution of saliva-related stimuli in regulating oral-directed responses was studied during several important phases of the gerbil's social life. Weanlings were preferentially attracted to their mother's saliva, subadults at puberty preferred saliva of littermates to that of nonlittermates, and sexually experienced males preferred the saliva of estrous females to that of nonestrous females. The use of saliva as a discriminative cue during various developmental periods suggests that oral chemostimuli have a perennial role in regulating social interchanges.