The Effects of Predator Odors in Mammalian Prey Species: A Review of Field and Laboratory Studies

Tierphysiologie, Zoologisches Institut, Universität Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews (Impact Factor: 8.8). 02/2005; 29(8):1123-44. DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.05.005
Source: PubMed


Prey species show specific adaptations that allow recognition, avoidance and defense against predators. For many mammalian species this includes sensitivity towards predator-derived odors. The typical sources of such odors include predator skin and fur, urine, feces and anal gland secretions. Avoidance of predator odors has been observed in many mammalian prey species including rats, mice, voles, deer, rabbits, gophers, hedgehogs, possums and sheep. Field and laboratory studies show that predator odors have distinctive behavioral effects which include (1) inhibition of activity, (2) suppression of non-defensive behaviors such as foraging, feeding and grooming, and (3) shifts to habitats or secure locations where such odors are not present. The repellent effect of predator odors in the field may sometimes be of practical use in the protection of crops and natural resources, although not all attempts at this have been successful. The failure of some studies to obtain repellent effects with predator odors may relate to (1) mismatches between the predator odors and prey species employed, (2) strain and individual differences in sensitivity to predator odors, and (3) the use of predator odors that have low efficacy. In this regard, a small number of recent studies have suggested that skin and fur-derived predator odors may have a more profound lasting effect on prey species than those derived from urine or feces. Predator odors can have powerful effects on the endocrine system including a suppression of testosterone and increased levels of stress hormones such as corticosterone and ACTH. Inhibitory effects of predator odors on reproductive behavior have been demonstrated, and these are particularly prevalent in female rodent species. Pregnant female rodents exposed to predator odors may give birth to smaller litters while exposure to predator odors during early life can hinder normal development. Recent research is starting to uncover the neural circuitry activated by predator odors, leading to hypotheses about how such activation leads to observable effects on reproduction, foraging and feeding.

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Available from: Raimund Apfelbach, May 12, 2014
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    • "tone ) and repellent taste ( e . g . bitter tasting compounds like tannins and phenols ) could be combined to minimize possible habituation of rodents to the repellent odor , because post - ingestive effects are induced . Otherwise animals could adapt to repellents by recognizing that the odor is not con - nected to a negative or positive reward . Apfelbach et al . ( 2005 ) reviewed the effects of predator odors as repellents for mamma - lian prey and observed significant habituation . We could observe that in some treatments ( e . g . BPO 2% or abetic acid ) the deterrent effect seemed to decline in the four days of the trial based on increasing food consumption . However , we could demonstrate that fema"
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    • "Retana- Marquez et al., 1996; Rhees et al., 2001; Kobayashi et al., 2013). Taken together, the present experiment is in agreement with the rats' natural motivation to approach odors of potential mating partners (Liberles, 2014) and to avoid odors of carnivores (Apfelbach et al., 2005; Masini et al., 2005). Importantly, using the olfactory hole-board test, we are able to study olfactory avoidance and preference behavior to different types of odors presented on the same hole-board in the same test session. "
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