A Moment of Science

Pigs ‘N Truffles -The Seductive Appeal Of Chocolate

Truffles are a French culinary delicacy and a fungus that grows deep in the ground. Has it ever occurred to you how odd it is that we use pigs to find them?

Pig stands in mud.

Photo: Keith Park (Flickr)

Truffles produce a steroid that is also used by pigs to communicate their sexual availability.

You probably already knew that truffles are a French culinary delicacy. But you may not have known that they’re also a fungus that grows deep in the ground, much like mushrooms. However, unlike mushrooms, truffles can be very hard to spot when roaming around in a field.

Seek ‘em out Wilbur!

So how do we find such French delicacies? Pigs.

March a female pig out around an area where some truffles are growing and the pig will excitedly root them out for you. It’s because truffles produce a steroid called 5-alpha-androstenol.

The truffles likely produce this steroid for several reasons and sexual reproduction turns out to be one of them.

Where Chocolate Gets It’s Seductive Appeal

Pigs use exactly the same steroids to communicate their sexual availability to other pigs. It’s found in the male’s saliva, and makes the female all hot and bothered when she sniffs it.

When you lead a sow over a field of truffles, she immediately goes searching for a male pig to mate with. In trying to locate the pig, she unearths the truffle!

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