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Could the Black Widow really be controlled with pheromones?
Marvel

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Could the Black Widow really be controlled with pheromones?

Massive spoilers in here!

Pheromones are crazy things! In contrast to hormones, which cause changes to the organism that produces them, pheromones influence the behavior of other animals, usually of the same species. Pheromones can trigger sexual arousal, mark a trail to a food source, or act as a warning.

What’s even crazier? Despite all the tropes and creepy claims by certain cologne companies, humans don’t have pheromones, and are unlikely to be able to detect any. Bad news for General Dreykov, who thinks his custom pheromones will keep the Black Widows, including Natasha Romanov, from causing him physical harm.

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I mean, if Natasha really were a spider, he might have a chance. Many female spiders emit pheromones to attract males (which honestly sounds more like a field tactic, and not a way for Dreykov to protect himself). The bolas spider actually mimics the sex pheromones of two different moth species to trap prey. It’s easier to observe these things in spiders and colonial insects like ants, which communicate almost exclusively with pheromones.

Mammals, of course, have other ways to communicate, but many do utilize pheromones for things like mother-infant bonding and identifying specific individuals. Unlike ants with their antennae, most mammals detect pheromones with something called the vomeronasal organ (VNO). While the VNO is also located in the nose, it is distinctly different from the olfactory membranes that detect smells.

Humans do have a VNO, but it atrophies after birth and seems to serve no actual purpose, currently. If it did, maybe severing a nerve to the brain with a few well-placed headbutts could indeed break the “pheromone lock” enacted by Dreykov.

Yet not a single human pheromone has ever been identified, despite all the surely lovely tests on sweat and menstrual hormones. Sorry, Russian super-spy trainers and aftershave hucksters.

Black Widow pheromones lock

If you like examining the science in your favorite entertainment, you’ll love AIPT SciPhi-Fest, taking place virtually TOMORROW, Sunday, July 18! We’ve got Star Wars science, X-Men philosophy, legendary horror artist Stephen Bissette, Department of Truth‘s James Tynion IV, and more!

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