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Maternal pheromone in the rat

Clegg, Frances Margaret


Frances Margaret Clegg


D. I. (David Islwyn) Williams


An integrated series of experiments was conducted to investigate an initial failure to replicate the maternal pheromone effect in the rat. It examined:
1. Apparatus parameters (airflow rate)
2. Pup factors (age, pre-test maternal deprivation, early experience)
3. Maternal factors (diet, strains; PVG/C, Wistar, Sprague-Dawley)

Publications on the maternal pheromone present a miriad of problems; methodological, conceptual and statistical, and a visit to two of the North American laboratories, where work on the pheromone is being pursued, failed to resolve these difficulties. The phenomenon is not as robust as the literature would suggest.

Final experiments, using a simplified method, showed that pre-weanling rats are influenced by olfactory cues; throughout the whole study the young had shown a slight preference for maternally derived odours.

Use of the term "pheromone", in connection with mammalian behaviour, is criticised. In particular it is concluded, that there is insufficient evidence to support the existence of a maternal pheromone in the rat.


Clegg, F. M. (1979). Maternal pheromone in the rat. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Mar 7, 2013
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords Psychology
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Psychology, The University of Hull
Award Date May 1, 1979


Thesis (16.7 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 1979 Clegg, Frances Margaret. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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