According to a new study, males give off an invisible chemical essence that prepares females for reproduction, but is also responsible for quicker aging.
This phenomenon was previously found in mice, and has now been found in roundworms as well. Researchers think that this effect may not just be applicable to animals, but to humans too.
Dr. Ilya Ruvinsky of Northwestern University said: “The male signals trigger the female to ‘go for it’ – to put more effort into reproduction – but then the body suffers.”
According to Ruvinsky, one pheromone causes young females to hit puberty earlier and the other delays aging of the reproductive system, prolonging female reproduction and fertility of older women. However, it does increase the rate of aging in the body.
Initially the researchers conducted tests on a transparent roundworm known to them as C. elegans, which is often used by scientists, but made controversial claims that the phenomenon was spread throughout the animal world.
“In mammals, males also produce signals that manipulate the timing of sexual maturation of females. “This raises an intriguing possibility that a basic mechanism controlling the rate of sexual development is similar in all animals,” said Dr. Ruvinsky.
In a research paper in the journal Current Biology, the researchers said that their work could possibly result in drugs that could delay the onset of puberty, extend fertility in humans, and even fight aging, which would increase lifespan.
The researchers found that the harmful effects of the male pheromones appear to be nothing more than collateral damage, as opposed to a deliberate attack on females.
Ruvinsky, I. et. al., “Sexually Antagonistic Male Signals Manipulate Germline and Soma of C. elegans Hermaphrodites,” Current Biology, 2015; http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(16)30936-8