The Biological Purpose of Pheromones in the Animal Kingdom

This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

Pheromones are interesting biological components in all animals (and possibly humans!) that are secreted from sweat glands and scent glands for various purposes. There are several types of pheromones. However, not all are able to be measured or tested.

We know that pheromones exist because of the tests we have done on certain animals, such as moths, that show their existence and purpose. This article will take a look at the biological purpose of pheromones in the animal kingdom and some examples of each.

Biological Purpose of Pheromones in the Animal Kingdom

Which Animals Produce Pheromones and What Are Their Purposes?

Animals are pretty incredible. They can do amazing things! For example, bugs can turn our food waste into fuel! Here are some of the top animals that produce pheromones and which types they produce, as well as the purpose.

Bugs

Bugs, such as certain moths produce pheromones for the purpose of reproducing. We are able to extract pheromones of a certain type of moth to study them, and we’ve found that these are compounds that can be picked up by other bugs and sensed within the species.

Bugs also use pheromones to help each other find food and to run away from danger. For example, an ant can give off a fear pheromone, and the other ants will run away with it, back to the safety of the main house.

Since insect pheromones are easiest for us to measure and understand, we use them to remove pests. Beekeepers often use queen bee pheromones as well to help control a colony of bees and bring them safely to a new home, as bees will always follow the scent of their queen.

Cats and Dogs

Cats and dogs, and other mammals have similar pheromones. They usually include:

  • Pheromones that are released during nursing from the mother to the babies (in the milk or by scent) to calm the babies
  • Pheromones of fear to warn other animals in the group of danger
  • Pheromones that work as “scent labels” that tell animals of the same family that they are related
  • Pheromones that work as “scenting markers” and show other animals which territory is theirs and which isn’t
  • Pheromones that are released during intercourse or to signal readiness to mate and reproduce

The pheromones of other mammals are the most useful in understanding the pheromones of humans, as we are also mammals. The purpose of these “scents” is for other animals of the same species to communicate with a lack of language.

Squid and Octopi

Surprisingly, squid and octopus eggs appear to have a certain pheromone that causes any male squid that touches them to become violent to another male squid nearby, according to National Geographic. This strange reaction is the result of pheromones. Although we don’t know the exact reason for it, it could be due to a need for the male to protect the eggs from other males or to defend his family.

Scientists are still studying pheromones in all species, and these chemicals are something new that isn’t completely understood yet. What we can learn from the pheromone reactions in squid is that these chemicals do impact behavior in others, outside of what we may have previously thought was possible.

Humans

Humans also have pheromones, although we have not yet proven them with a chemical compound that can be physically studied. Due to our knowledge of pheromones in the animal kingdom, we know that humans likely exhibit similar abilities. Many scientists believe that if we do have pheromones, they would have been something we developed in prehistoric times before we learned more advanced communication.

For this reason, it is likely that pheromones exist in our mothers when we are born, in potential mates (dates), and when feeling fear. For example, we may feel afraid if someone close to us is feeling fear. This reaction can be attributed to an empathetic response, but many scientists believe that it’s simply pheromones and that we can tell how someone is feeling by picking up on them.

Others

Many other animals have pheromones, and studying these can help us learn more about behavior. In some cases, like in the example of squid, pheromones seem to play no biological advantage. However, knowing what we know about animal behavior, these are simply forms of communication that we don’t understand so well as humans, who communicate primarily through language.

What Types of Pheromones Are There?

The most common types of pheromones studied are:

  • Reactive pheromones- The fear response
  • Sexual pheromones- Chemical compounds that cause two animals to mate or be “attracted”
  • Mother pheromones- Pheromones released by the mother to calm her children
  • Labeling pheromones- Pheromones that label members of the same family or species or simply announce the presence of an outsider
  • Marking pheromones- Pheromones that are used to mark territory

We can also see outlier examples that only exist in certain species, such as the example of the squid and octopus. These examples are the more interesting ones that scientists want to pay more attention to, as they can give more insight into our wonderful natural world and how it works.

Conclusion

If you’re still confused about pheromones or want to learn how they work in humans, head on over to BetterHelp’s advice column and blog today. You can learn more about the human body and mind work and find resources for any mental health topic.

Dealing With Pessimism About the State of the World? 7 Ways to Calm Climate Crisis Anxiety in 2022

This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

Anxiety and stress are common side effects of the state of our world in 2022. Climate change was a big thing on many people’s radars until 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Since then, the world has been flung into a state of chaos, and the climate crisis has been put in the back of many people’s minds.

For those who are passionate about sustainability and climate, we know the importance of a zero net carbon future. It can start to feel extremely overwhelming to see that no one is talking about these topics anymore, and it might feel like the world has given up.

Even when it feels pointless, activism is important. It changes the way the world works, and it makes our voices heard. If you’re feeling pessimistic, upset, anxious, or stressed about the state of the climate, here are a few ways to find calm in the midst of the (literal and figurative) storm.

ways to calm climate crisis anxiety

1. Spend Time in Nature

Our planet is beautiful, and there’s more time than ever to spend outside appreciating the beauty of what it offers, especially during the pandemic, when it’s safer to be outside than in.

Nature also has profound positive effects on your mental health, according to several studies. If you find yourself feeling panicked, scared, upset, or angry, spend some time under some trees or near a river, where there aren’t any people or reminders of the stresses you face.

If you live in a big city, consider taking a weekend trip to a smaller town that allows you to be closer to nature. Or try to find a park with lots of trees and open spaces, where there aren’t as many people present. Just be sure to be safe.

2. Spend Time With Pets and Family

Being close to those you love is another excellent way to feel safe and get some relief from stress and anxiety. If you’re feeling pessimistic, reminding yourself of the positive people and pets in your life is essential to make sure you don’t get stuck in a pattern of feeling like there’s nothing good in the world.

After all, animals are some of the purest beings on the planet, and they never give you a reason to feel hurt or angry. They’ll always love you unconditionally. If you have a dog, even going for a brisk walk with them is a great way to get exercise and bond with your pet.

If you have a cat, their purring can even help soothe you, as vibrations are comforting for humans as well as animals.

Try to avoid spending time with family members who cause you stress or may incite conversations that will cause fear or anger.

3. Join a Protest

Sometimes the best way to take action against pessimism is to be optimistic and continue to fight hard for what you believe in. For some people, this is the best and most productive way to fight anxiety. For others, it may make it worse.

If being part of a cause and making a change would help you, look for protests or peaceful demonstrations in your area related to climate change. If there are none and you know enough people, consider planning your own!

Planning an event is another great way to get your mind focused on something other than the thoughts inside of it.

4. Volunteer for an Environmental Organization

If you prefer to do something more long-term with your anxiety about the state of the climate, joining an organization or volunteering for an environmental non-profit is an excellent idea.

These organizations often make long-term efforts to help the community be greener and more sustainable, and they donate to larger organizations and offer political support. You can even sign up to help educate the public on voter information and environmental rights.

Some organizations simply need volunteers to help with cleaning, organizational tasks, money, etc. No matter where your skills lie, there’s like a spot for you.

If you have the time and money, there are some sites online that allow you to volunteer in other countries for environmental-impact projects in exchange for food and housing. You just have to pay for your plane ticket and dedicate a certain amount of hours.

ways to use persuasion to bring awareness to the reality of climate change

5. Change Your Sustainability Practices in Your Own Life

Opting for sustainable practices in your own life can make you feel like you’re making a change. Even if it feels useless or like one person can’t possibly do enough to change the world, every effort helps.

Not giving up on your goals and knowing that you’re doing something to help the environment is a great way to feel more optimistic.

6. See a Therapist

For some people, the anxiety, pessimism, and anger that comes with the state of the world during this time can be too much to handle on their own. That’s okay! These feelings are completely natural, and thousands, if not millions, of people feel the same way as you do.

Therapists are available online, as well as in person. However, if you’re looking to reduce emissions by not driving or using public transport, it’s always a possibility to see an online therapist from the comfort of your home! You can even utilize video chat, phone calls, or regular chat to speak to your therapist!

7. Stop Compulsively Checking the News

Finally, compulsively checking the news for new information on climate crises can often cause more anxiety and pessimism. If you are susceptible to these things and very sensitive, try to give yourself a break. Although it’s important to be informed, you’ll likely get more accurate information from scholarly sources, such as the ones on Google Scholar.

Conclusion

If you want to learn more about pessimism in general and how to combat it, check out BetterHelp’s advice column and blog today. You can also learn more about how to get help for common mental health conditions and symptoms so that you feel safe and ready to get back to your advocacy for the environment!

15 Simple Ways You and Your Family Can Save the Planet

Life, the miracle of the universe, appeared about 4 billion years ago, and we, humans – only 200,000 years ago. But we have already succeeded in destroying the balance that is so important for the life on Earth. What do we actually know about life on Earth? The tenth part? Or maybe the hundredth? Earth is a real miracle. Life remains a mystery.

Trees grow towards the sun, which feeds their foliage. Animals are adapted to their pastures, and their pastures are adapted to them. As a result, everyone wins. Animals satisfy hunger, and plants flourish again. In this great life journey on Earth, each species has a particular function and takes a certain place. There are no useless creatures. They are all balanced.

And Homo sapiens – a man of sense – enters the arena of history. He received a fabulous inheritance that the Earth has carefully preserved for 4 billion years. He is only 200,000 years old, but he has already changed the face of the world. Despite his vulnerability, he captured all the habitats and conquered the territory like no other species before him. Today, life – our life – is only a link in the chain of countless lives following one another on Earth for 4 billion years.

For a long time, the relationship between people and the planet were fairly balanced and resembled a natural and equal union. Now, we rarely think about global issues, being lost in everyday concerns. Meanwhile, we are on the verge of a disaster. Thanks to the achievements of science and technology, people learned to satisfy their needs, but some inventions brought us much more harm than good. We are killing our planet gradually but purposefully.

Planting more trees and vegetation will go a long way in reducing heat in urban settings.

Only by changing your habits quite a bit, you and your loved ones can make the world cleaner and safer. These 15 simple tips do not require you either time or extra effort, but can make a difference in saving the world:

  1. Make the most of natural ambient light. Turn off the light in the room or the computer monitor when you do not need it. And do not forget about the chargers in the appliance receptacle!
  2. Teach yourself to turn off the water at a time when you do not need it – for example, while brushing your teeth or rubbing the pan with a detergent. On average, according to statistics, 5-10 liters of water (depending on pressure) flows out of the tap per minute. Also, reduce the time spent in the shower for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Replace incandescent bulbs with LED lights: they save energy and last longer.
  4. Change to a bike. It is cool, fast, and comfortable. Having tried only once, you no longer want to get on the “hot bus” or spend time stuck in traffic jams. In addition, a bicycle is an excellent vehicle as it does not pollute the air with dangerous gases.
  5. Use phosphate-free detergents. On the Internet, there are many resources offering ecological household chemicals.
  6. Buy less plastic bags, go to the store with your eco-bag.
  7. Replace plastic with paper and glass. If you cannot do without disposable tableware – for example, when going on a picnic – use paper plates and cups rather than plastic ones.
  8. Choose cosmetics and chemicals especially carefully. You should give preference to products that have not been tested on animals and do not adversely affect the environment at different stages of production.
  9. Though it is as simple as ABC but very effective – try to bring plastic, glass, and paper for recycling.
  10. Bring batteries to special shops and institutions because this is a dangerous and very toxic type of waste.
  11. Refuse semi-finished products. Experts say that today, the manufacture of these products is fully controlled by monopoly companies that abuse antibiotics, overload the ecosystem, and apply the principles of intensive management for their own profit. Of course, in such conditions, quality suffers. Homemade food is much better. Do not know how to cook? A dating site may be helpful.
  12. Buy local food – the one that is made in your area. This food undergoes less chemical treatment which is sometimes used for long-term transportation.
  13. Use water filters. In this case, you do not need to spend money on bottled drinking water. Thus, you will not only save your family budget but also reduce the environmental impact caused by the production and transportation of plastic bottles.
  14. Plant flowers on window sills and trees in the courtyards. Do not let anyone cut down green spaces near your house.
  15. Support environmental organizations and encourage your family to do it.

“Orbiting Earth, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!”

– Yuri Gagarin

Pet Waste Management in the UK – Prospects and Challenges

Pet waste is a growing public health and environmental risk. According to a report commissioned by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, 13 million UK households (45%) keep pets of some kind. Cats and dogs are each kept by 8.5 million households (these numbers are not additive, as some will of course keep both).

pet-wastes

Can those of us who want both the joys of animal companionship and waste minimisation, find ways to cut down, or better manage, the huge amount of pet waste generated in the UK every year? With so many cats and dogs in the UK, pet waste must represent a significant mass of organic matter within the residual waste stream.

Does this waste represent a floater in the residual waste stream by necessity—due to inherently unpleasant and possibly dangerous characteristics of the waste—or is it only there out of convention and squeamishness?

I’ve written before about the relationship between waste management and squeamishness, and talking about faeces really brings the point home. There are some undoubtedly nasty pathogens present in pet faeces, notably the parasites Toxocariasis and Toxoplasmosis. But might these be safely killed off by the temperatures reached in anaerobic digestion (AD). If so, provided any litter and bags were made of organic matter, might pet waste be collected along with food waste?

I began by contacting a local authority waste officer, but was told that no one had asked this question before, and that I might be better off talking to AD plant operators. This I did, but most seemed similarly baffled by my query. However, one mentioned that AD digestate goes through a pasteurisation process, where it is heated to a temperature of 70oC for one hour, in order to make it safe for land application. I also attempted to contact some technical specialists in the field, but to no avail.

There are some theoretical indications that this pasteurisation should be sufficient. Hanna Mizgajska-Wiktor and Shoji Uga’s essay Exposure and Environmental Contamination states: “Anaerobic waste treatment kills Toxocara spp. eggs at temperatures in excess of 45oC”, well below the 70oC mentioned by my operator. The susceptibility of Toxoplasma to heat is less clear, although numerous internet sources suggest this can be killed in meat by cooking at 66oC. So far, then, I haven’t confirmed or falsified my initial inkling, and so the collection of pet waste in the municipal organic stream remains a theoretical possibility.

Motivated dog owners can already turn their pet’s waste into a resource within their own home. The website London Worms explains how you can turn your dog’s poo into rich and useful vermicompost, although it warns that the results will only be suitable for use on non-edible plants.

Foul Pay

Household pet droppings may still be largely fated for disposal, but even when binned this waste is at least moving through proper waste management channels. Unfortunately, not all pet poo is binned, and we have real data measuring public perceptions of the disamenity resulting from dog fouling. For most, the presence of this unwelcome waste in our streets, parks and footpaths is of much higher concern than its diversion from landfill. Therefore, it is necessary to make use of biodegradable dog poop bags to keep our environment clean.

A 2011 Defra-funded study on local residents’ willingness-to-pay — via an increase in council tax — for improvements across a range of environmental factors found that dog fouling was the third most important issue out of the presented range (with litter and fly-tipping taking first and second place). Surveys were conducted in inner-city, suburban and rural/semi-rural areas around London, Manchester and Coventry.

In order to move from the current level of dog fouling to the best possible scenario, it was found that inner-city residents would on average be willing to pay £8.87 per month, suburban residents £7.79 per month, and rural residents £2.72. Combining these figures with population statistics allows us to place a disamenity value on dog fouling. National statistics only allow for an urban-rural split, but based on a 2012 Defra rurality study which found that 18.9% of the population lives in rural areas, we can calculate that across England we would collectively be willing to pay £462m per year to achieve best case scenario improvements in dog fouling.

This somewhat crude calculation gives an indication of the perceived disamenity of dog fouling. Presenting the matter in terms such as these may allow economically minded policy makers a means of engaging with this important street scene issue and evaluating the costs and benefits of interventions.

Food for Thought

Let’s wash our hands of poo (with plenty of soap and warm water) and look to the other end of the pet waste problem. According to a report published by WRAP, the UK uses around 75,000 tonnes of primary packaging annually. This holds 1,263,000 tonnes of wet and dry cat and dog food, of which 9,000 uneaten tonnes are thrown away. Although this wasted food constitutes less than 1% of the total sold (if only we were as careful with food for human consumption) the estimated cost to the consumer is still £21m a year.

WRAP examined a number of designs intended to cut to down on the amounts of both pet food and packaging thrown away. A major problem with packaging design is the need to account for portion sizes, which vary from animal to animal and change depending on age and level of activity. Single serve packaging may actually lead to regular food wastage if the portion provided is too big for a particular pet; indeed, this is a problem I am experiencing with my own cat, whose appetite seems to fluctuate wildly. Re-sealable packaging that allows owners to dish out meals in accordance with the changing appetites of their pets is therefore preferable.

The material that packaging is made of is also significant: for example, relatively heavy tins are recyclable, whereas lightweight plasticised plastic foil packets are not. Pet food and its packaging can be pushed up the waste hierarchy by simply choosing a recyclable and resealable container which will allow them to adequately provide for the appetite of their pet. However, these issues are likely to be given less weight compared with health, convenience and cost in the minds of most householders. The onus has to be on manufacturers to develop packaging which is both low cost and easily recyclable. A recent development in this area for cat owners includes durable stainless steel litter boxes, which eliminates the need to purchase and replace plastic boxes.

Love pets, hate waste?

People love animals, but are rather less keen to engage with pets as an environmental issue. Leaving aside questions of whether it is sustainable for so many of us to have pets at all, there are clearly ways in which we can reduce their impact. The convenience of single serving pouches of pet food seems to win out over more recyclable and waste-avoiding alternatives, although pet owners might be willing to change their choices if presented with a better option.

While worrying about recovery options for cat poo might seem somewhat academic, it may be easier to tackle than dog fouling. It might even help to tackle the common psycho-social root of both issues. Cultural distaste perhaps lies behind the lack of information available on dealing with household pet waste, and the persistence of dog fouling as a street scene issue.

Things were very different in Victorian London when “pure finders” earned a living by seeking out doggie doo to supply the tanning trade. But for us this kind of waste is a disagreeable fact of life which we deal with as simply and with as little thought as possible. But as a nation of animal lovers, it’s our responsibility to engage with the waste management issues our pets present.

Note: The article is being republished with the kind permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original article can be viewed at this link

A Handy Guide to Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy is an emerging therapeutic treatment method aimed toward treating both physical health and psychological issues by detoxifying the body. The essential idea behind ecotherapy is that the human being is connected to the natural environment and is impacted by the changes happening in the external environment on account of environmental toxins. Detoxification of the body through outdoor activities is the fundamental basis of environmental therapy.

green-entrepreneurship

Why Do We Need Ecotherapy?

In the past few decades, environmental degradation has not only destroyed natural ecosystems but has also led to significant increase in diseases related to environmental toxins, allergens and microorganisms. The outcome of this environmental crisis has been widespread prevalence of different types of cancers, chronic allergies, asthma, anxiety, depression and other ailments.

Ecotherapy, also known as environmental therapy, endeavours to unravel environment-related health issues by strengthening the linkage between the Nature and human being. The self-balancing mechanism of Nature can help in improving both physical and mental health by creating harmony between the natural elements and mankind.

Studies have shown that Nature can provide the healing touch and enhance physical health, psychological state and life satisfaction. For instance, the presence of houseplants in the workplace can positively affect creativity and productivity among employees.

The Different Types of Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy consists of an array of nature-based healing approaches which can be carried out individually or in groups under the guidance of trained therapists. Therapist notes, usually taken during a session, can provide a good understanding about the nature of ecotherapy services required for a particular health problem.

To obtain the best results, ecotherapy is usually conducted in natural settings to get the simplest results. The popular types of ecotherapy techniques include nature meditation, horticultural therapy, animal-assisted therapy and conservation-related activities.

ecotherapy

Nature replenishes our souls and has the power to boost our spirits. Meditating in nature activates our senses which assists in mindfulness training and propels the meditator to contemplate how a specific aspect of nature relates him to and what he can learn from it. Nature-based mediation is usually done in groups in a natural setting, like a park or forest. For instance, an old person can regain self-respect after realizing how old trees provide shelter for birds and shade for younger plants and passers-by.

The therapeutic benefits of gardening have been known for centuries. Horticulture-based therapy involves involvement in gardening and plant-based activities to realize specific therapeutic goals. Soil digging, planting trees, maintaining garden beds, trimming leaves and mowing grass are some of the common horticultural activities. Social isolation, depression, post-traumatic stress and drug abuse are the main mental disorders where horticultural therapy can act as a therapeutic modality. The major benefits of horticultural therapy include improvement in memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation and socialization.

ecofriendly-gardening

Animal-assisted therapy is the use of animals in the mental healing process. Grounded in the human-animal bond, the main goal of this therapy is to assist people deal with physical and mental ailments through pets. Traditionally, dogs have been used as therapy animals but cats are being used more and more, usually dogs and cats. For example, a therapy cat can be a loyal companion for a senior who is feeling lonely in an old age home. Similarly, pet therapy may help a kid who has recently his mother to overcome emotional trauma.

Physical activities, like walking, jogging, cycling or doing yoga, can rejuvenate the human-nature bond and can reduce stress, anxiety and anger. Likewise, conservation-based activities can inculcate a sense of belonging and connectedness with the natural elements .

Bottom Line

Ecotherapy is an effective therapeutic technique to treat physical and mental illnesses. It is also an effective way to strengthen the human-nature and human-animal bonds, thus helping in the conservation of natural ecosystems and wildlife.