Olfactory Communication and Neighbor Recognition in Giant Kangaroo Rats

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Abstract

We hypothesized that olfactory communication facilitates neighbor recognition in the giant kangaroo rat, Dipodomys ingens, and is therefore influential in coordinating social interactions in this solitary, desert rodent. We tested whether (i) D. ingens can discriminate between odors of same- and opposite-sex conspecifics; and (ii) the kangaroo rats exhibit scent preferences based on familiarity. In habituation-discrimination tests, we found that both genders distinguish differences between the scent of individuals of the same- and opposite-sex. In olfactory preference tests, both males and females spent significantly more time investigating the scent of their familiar cagemate than the scent of an unfamiliar conspecific. Giant kangaroo rats may be able to recognize familiar neighbors from olfactory cues, thus supporting a hypothesis of neighbor recognition. Neighbor recognition may be an important mechanism of social interactions in this endangered species.

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