Chemical communication in large carnivores: urine-marking frequencies in captive tigers and lions

Polish Journal of Ecology (Impact Factor: 0.5). 01/2010; 58:397-400.

ABSTRACT Environmental and social pres-sures can result in interspecies differences in mark-ing behaviours. There is a strong relationship be-tween marking behaviour and the environment. Therefore, closely related species that show behav-ioural differences in the wild may have different scent marking strategies. We conducted a compara-tive study of the urine-marking behaviours of tigers and lions in captivity (Madrid Zoo, open enclosures of 514 m 2 and 730 m 2 respectively, observations of 8 animals for each species). These two closely related species have different natural habitats. We observed interspecific differences in the rates, seasonal varia-tions, and durations of the urine-marking acts. The marking rate was higher in tigers, which also showed seasonal variations not observed in lions. The duration of urine marking was lower in tigers than in lions. These differences seem to correspond to differences between tigers and lions in terms of their natural habitats (forest areas vs open areas), social organizations (solitary vs social), and repro-ductive biology patterns (seasonal polyoestrous vs annual polyoestrous).

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    ABSTRACT: The function of chemical signalling in non-territorial solitary carnivores is still relatively unclear. Studies on territorial solitary and social carnivores have highlighted odour capability and utility, however the social function of chemical signalling in wild carnivore populations operating dominance hierarchy social systems has received little attention. We monitored scent marking and investigatory behaviour of wild brown bears Ursus arctos, to test multiple hypotheses relating to the social function of chemical signalling. Camera traps were stationed facing bear 'marking trees' to document behaviour by different age sex classes in different seasons. We found evidence to support the hypothesis that adult males utilise chemical signalling to communicate dominance to other males throughout the non-denning period. Adult females did not appear to utilise marking trees to advertise oestrous state during the breeding season. The function of marking by subadult bears is somewhat unclear, but may be related to the behaviour of adult males. Subadults investigated trees more often than they scent marked during the breeding season, which could be a result of an increased risk from adult males. Females with young showed an increase in marking and investigation of trees outside of the breeding season. We propose the hypothesis that females engage their dependent young with marking trees from a young age, at a relatively 'safe' time of year. Memory, experience, and learning at a young age, may all contribute towards odour capabilities in adult bears.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(4):e35404. · 3.73 Impact Factor

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