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Skin, gland, and urine odors elicit intense investigation by male gray short-tailed opossums, Monodelphis domestica

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Chemical signaling between animals of the same species is common among vertebrates. We have reported this phenomenon in the gray short-tailed opossum, Monodelphis domestica (Wagner, 1842). We now find that male opossums investigate odors derived from the mandibular and flank regions and from urine of male and female opossums and from the sternal gland of male opossums significantly more than distilled water. Males investigate female odors significantly more than male odors. They also investigate strange male odors significantly more than their own odors when similar body parts were compared. The males investigate female flank odors significantly longer than female urine odors when these were paired, but the time spent investigating other pairings of female odors was not significantly different. Furthermore, experimental males, unlike females tested in former studies, discriminate between urine of male and of female conspecifics when compared with water control. We hypothesize that male opossums require information about the presence of male conspecifics that recently traversed their home range to avoid potential conflicts. Urine from diestrous females signals the proximity of a female that has not already mated.

La signalisation chimique entre les animaux de même espèce est un phénomène courant chez les vertébrés. Nous avons déjà souligné ce fait chez l’opossum-musaraigne gris, Monodelphis domestica (Wagner, 1842). Nous trouvons maintenant que les opossums mâles s’intéressent plus aux odeurs provenant de la région mandibulaire et des flancs des opossums mâles et femelles et de la glande sternale des mâles qu’à de l’eau distillée. Les mâles s’intéressent significativement plus aux odeurs des femelles qu’à celles des mâles. Ils s’intéressent aussi significativement plus aux odeurs de mâles étrangers qu’à leurs propres odeurs lorsqu’on compare les mêmes parties du corps. Les mâles s’attardent significativement plus longuement aux odeurs des flancs des femelles qu’à celles de l’urine de femelle dans des tests appariés; en revanche, les temps passés à flairer d’autres odeurs appariées ne diffèrent pas significativement. De plus, les mâles expérimentaux, contrairement aux femelles testées dans des études antérieures, discriminent entre l’urine de mâles et de femelles de leur espèce, par comparaison à des témoins constitués d’eau. Nous émettons l’hypothèse selon laquelle les opossums mâles ont besoin d’obtenir de l’information sur la présence d’autres mâles de même espèce qui ont récemment traversé leur aire vitale afin d’éviter les conflits potentiels. L’urine de femelle en phase dioestrale signale la proximité d’une femelle qui ne s’est pas encore accouplée.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-04-01

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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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