Taste Stimuli as Possible Messengers
It is well known that insects may use highly specific pheromones to release stereotyped behavior leading to reproduction. In this regard the insect has become the model for other animals, and odors have become emphasized as the means of communication. Consequently, another chemosensory system, taste, is seldom considered in the study of pheromone-released behavior by these other animals. This neglect of taste is perhaps understandable when considering distant communication in non-aquatic species since in such species taste communication would most often require body contact. (In aquatic animals several contingencies, including the arrangement of the receptors and the water solubility of the stimuli, often convert taste into a distance sensory system.) However, it is conceivable that even for non-aquatic animals much information might still be transferred during body contact using the taste system to receive the chemical signals. Gross observations of the mating behavior of many mammals would indicate that taste is indeed used as a cue, and recent research of the secretion of the gerbil Harderian gland suggests that tastes, as well as odors, may be involved in groom-induced behavior (Thiessen, Clancy and Goodwin, 1976). If indeed tastes can operate as conspecific messengers, several questions become pertinent: How varied are the taste qualities? To what kinds of chemicals and with what specificity is the gustatory system responsive? How sensitive is the system to these chemicals and how does the gustatory system compare with the olfactory system in its ability to act as an information channel?
KeywordsOlfactory System Taste Receptor Monosodium Glutamate Taste Quality Taste Stimulus
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