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Abstract

Previous studies of subterranean, fossorial and above-ground rodents have demonstrated that similarities in individual odours covary with genetic similarities thus supporting the theory of odour-genes covariance (i.e. the closer the individuals are genetically, the greater the similarities between their odours). We used the habituation-generalization paradigm, where the subject is exposed to the same odour stimulus in three consecutive habituation trials followed by two test trials in which the odour from two other individuals are presented successively. Using this test design, we showed that the socially living coruros (Spalacopus cyanus) discriminate individuals on the basis of their ano-genital odours and also respond to odour similarities between individuals. Male and female subjects treated ano-genital odours of two same-sex family members and also the odours of two sibling strangers as different to each other. At the same time, they treated the odours of siblings as similar compared with the odour of an unrelated individual. No gender differences were detected. Our results contrast with those from other rodent species that did not spontaneously discriminate between individual odours of siblings from a different family than their own. The polygyneous lifestyle may provide the selective background for that difference. Additional research will be necessary to explore this hypothesis and to rule out differences due to dietary preferences and due to the type of paradigm chosen for the tests.