Subspecies discrimination in the Scandinavian beaver (Castor fiber): combining behavioral and chemical evidence

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Abstract:

Geographic isolation is one of several models that has been proposed to explain the evolutionary course of speciation. In this study, we examined how geographical isolation may affect subspecies discrimination in the free-ranging Scandinavian beaver (Castor fiber fiber L., 1758) by simulating a territorial intrusion by using scent (castoreum and anal gland secretion) from a con-subspecific (N = 8 for castoreum and N = 7 for anal gland secretion) and a hetero-subspecific (Castor fiber albicus Matschie, 1907; N = 2 for both castoreum and anal gland secretion). Direct observations of 33 families during evenings showed that beavers (i) sniffed castoreum but not anal gland secretion from C. f. fiber significantly longer than from C. f. albicus and (ii) responded aggressively (i.e., stood on the mound on their hind feet, pawing and (or) overmarking) significantly longer to castoreum but not anal gland secretion from C. f. fiber than from C. f. albicus. When experimental scent mounds were allowed to remain overnight, the response was significantly stronger to castoreum but not to anal gland secretion from C. f. fiber than from C. f. albicus. Gas chromatographic comparisons of castoreum and anal gland secretion from the two subspecies supported our behavioral observations for castoreum but not for anal gland secretion. These findings suggest that geographical isolation has developed discriminatory abilities in C. f. fiber. We further suggest that the proximate factors involved are of environmental origin.

L'isolement géographique est l'un de plusieurs modèles proposés pour expliquer le développement de la spéciation au cours de l'évolution. Notre étude examine comment l'isolement géographique peut affecter la reconnaissance des sous-espèces chez le castor de Scandinavie (Castor fiber fiber L., 1758) sauvage par la simulation d'une intrusion territoriale au moyen d'odeurs (castoréum et sécrétions de la glande anale) provenant d'animaux la même sous-espèce (castoréum, N = 8, sécrétions de la glande anale, N = 7) et d'une autre sous-espèce (Castor fiber albicus Matschie, 1907; N = 2 pour le castoréum et les sécrétions de la glande anale). Des observations directes de 33 familles en soirée indiquent que les castors (i) reniflent le castoréum, mais pas les sécrétions des glandes anales, de C. f. fiber significativement plus longtemps que les mêmes substances provenant de C. f. albicus et (ii) qu'ils réagissent agressivement (position debout sur les pattes arrières sur les monticules, coups de pattes et (ou) marquage excessif) significativement plus longtemps au castoréum, mais non aux sécrétions des glandes anales, de C. f. fiber, qu'aux mêmes substances provenant de C. f. albicus. Si les monticules portant les odeurs sont laissés toute la nuit, la réaction est significativement plus forte au castoréum, mais non aux sécrétions de la glande anale, de C. f. fiber qu'aux mêmes substances provenant de C. f. albicus. Des analyses comparatives par chromatographie en phase gazeuse du castoréum et des sécrétions des glandes anales des deux sous-espèces appuient nos observations comportementales dans le cas du castoréum, mais pas dans celui des sécrétions des glandes anales. Ces résultats indiquent que l'isolement géographique a permis le développement de capacités de discrimination chez C. f. fiber. Nous croyons que les facteurs proximaux impliqués sont d'origine environnementale.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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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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