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The ability of red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) to discriminate conspecific olfactory signatures

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Using a habituation-dishabituation procedure, we investigated the ability of male red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) to discriminate olfactory signatures of different male conspecifics. Our results indicate that they effectively pay attention to odours from unfamiliar male conspecifics and that they invest more time sniffing litter impregnated with these unfamiliar social odours than control litters. They can also habituate themselves to a given social odour and can discriminate olfactory signatures of different male conspecifics. The role of olfactory communication in this territorial species from the boreal forest is discussed with regard to the "dear enemy" phenomenon and to the fact that these squirrels are known to use vocal communication intensively to advertise their territories.

A partir d'une procédure d'habituation-déshabituation, nous avons testé la capacité d'Écureuils roux (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) mâles de distinguer les signatures olfactives de mâles de leur espèce. Nos résultats indiquent qu'ils portent effectivement attention aux odeurs de mâles conspécifiques non familiers et qu'ils consacrent plus de temps à renifler les litières imprégnées d'odeurs sociales non familières que les litières témoins. De plus, ils peuvent s'habituer à une odeur sociale donnée et sont capables de discriminer les signatures olfactives de différents mâles consécifiques. Le rôle de la communication olfactive chez cette espèce territoriale de la forêt boréale est examiné à la lumière du phénomène du « cher ennemi » et du fait que ces écureuils utilisent activement les signaux vocaux pour proclamer leurs territoires.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2001

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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