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Ritualised Dung Kicking by White Rhino Males Amplifies Olfactory Signals but Reduces Odour Duration.

Marneweck, Courtney and Jürgens, Andreas and Shrader, Adrian M. (2018):
Ritualised Dung Kicking by White Rhino Males Amplifies Olfactory Signals but Reduces Odour Duration.
In: Journal of chemical ecology, pp. 875-885, 44, (10), ISSN 1573-1561,
[Article]

Abstract

Many mammals enhance their olfactory signals visually by depositing them in conspicuous locations such as well-travelled paths. It is also possible to enhance the odour itself through behaviours aimed at modifying odour emission rates. White rhinos defecate in communal middens. While defecating, territorial males kick sharply with their back feet which disperses their dung. Despite being a ubiquitous trait of territorial male white rhinos, the reason behind this behaviour is unclear. We hypothesised that the purpose of dung kicking was for olfactory signal amplification (OSA) in terms of an increased emission of volatile compounds (i.e. increased signal strength). Using dung collected from non-territorial adult males (because it is not possible to collect whole dung from territorial males), we show that the dispersal of male white rhino dung causes OSA by increasing the emission of hydrocarbon acids. The dung odour of territorial and non-territorial males differs only quantitatively, hence it is likely that the same emission patterns occur for territorial male dung odours following dung dispersal. The volatile compound indicating age of intact dung was toluene, but for dispersed dung it was acetophenone (similar to territorial male dung). Despite the benefits of OSA, dung dispersal carried a cost of decreased odour longevity. Thus, signal detectability is temporally reduced. However, territorial males likely counteract this by defecating in middens both before and during peak visitation times by other individuals (15:00-23:00). As a result, we suggest that dung kicking by territorial males amplifies signal strength, such that their dung odours are the most prominent and easily detectable by individuals visiting the middens. This would then better signal territorial ownership to both potential rivals and potential mates.

Item Type: Article
Erschienen: 2018
Creators: Marneweck, Courtney and Jürgens, Andreas and Shrader, Adrian M.
Title: Ritualised Dung Kicking by White Rhino Males Amplifies Olfactory Signals but Reduces Odour Duration.
Language: English
Abstract:

Many mammals enhance their olfactory signals visually by depositing them in conspicuous locations such as well-travelled paths. It is also possible to enhance the odour itself through behaviours aimed at modifying odour emission rates. White rhinos defecate in communal middens. While defecating, territorial males kick sharply with their back feet which disperses their dung. Despite being a ubiquitous trait of territorial male white rhinos, the reason behind this behaviour is unclear. We hypothesised that the purpose of dung kicking was for olfactory signal amplification (OSA) in terms of an increased emission of volatile compounds (i.e. increased signal strength). Using dung collected from non-territorial adult males (because it is not possible to collect whole dung from territorial males), we show that the dispersal of male white rhino dung causes OSA by increasing the emission of hydrocarbon acids. The dung odour of territorial and non-territorial males differs only quantitatively, hence it is likely that the same emission patterns occur for territorial male dung odours following dung dispersal. The volatile compound indicating age of intact dung was toluene, but for dispersed dung it was acetophenone (similar to territorial male dung). Despite the benefits of OSA, dung dispersal carried a cost of decreased odour longevity. Thus, signal detectability is temporally reduced. However, territorial males likely counteract this by defecating in middens both before and during peak visitation times by other individuals (15:00-23:00). As a result, we suggest that dung kicking by territorial males amplifies signal strength, such that their dung odours are the most prominent and easily detectable by individuals visiting the middens. This would then better signal territorial ownership to both potential rivals and potential mates.

Journal or Publication Title: Journal of chemical ecology
Volume: 44
Number: 10
Divisions: 10 Department of Biology
10 Department of Biology > Chemical Plant Ecology
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2018 07:36
Identification Number: pmid:30009329
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