Spontaneous discrimination of urine odours in wild African lions (Panthera leo)

Gilfillian, Geoffrey D, Vitale, Jessica D T, McNutt, J Weldon and McComb, Karen (2017) Spontaneous discrimination of urine odours in wild African lions (Panthera leo). Animal Behaviour, 126. pp. 177-185. ISSN 0003-3472

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Olfactory communication is the primary mode of communication for many mammals, yet research on this form of signalling is still largely descriptive in most species. Thus, despite the apparent importance of scent-marking in the social lives of wild felids, experimental studies directly investigating the function of olfactory communication are lacking. We conducted scent presentation experiments to investigate whether wild African lions can discriminate another lion's social group and sex from a sample of its urine. Our results indicated that lion urine has the potential to signal depositor sex and social group, and that lions can use urine to discriminate males from females and residents from non-residents. The response of lions to urine was also dependent on both the sex and age of the subject receiving the presentation. Female lions responded less frequently to urine from resident females than to either non-resident females or resident males. Males responded more strongly to urine from resident males than resident females, but did not appear to differentiate urine from non-resident and resident females. Observations of flehmen and further scent-marking responses from lions provide additional evidence that lion urine functions in scent-marking. These results establish that urine scent-marks contain sufficient information for receivers to discriminate the sex and social affiliation of the signaller, and are the first to experimentally demonstrate the functional relevance of scent-marking in African lions.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Depositing User: Ellena Adams
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2017 14:38
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 16:18
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/66314

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