Predator scent induces differing responses in two sympatric macropodids

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Zoology, 2005, 53 (2), pp. 73 - 78
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When prey species encounter the scent of a predator they must make a decision on how to respond. This may be either to ignore, flee, hide or alarm call. While many species are able to derive detailed information from the chemical cues associated with predator scent, for some the decision to respond is often made without being able to identify the actual location and intentions of the predator. Depending on the sociality and ecology of the species, it may pay to flee or to engage in predator inspection where knowledge is impure. We tested for this in two sympatric marsupial macropodids, the parma wallaby (Macropus parma) and the red-necked pademelon (Thylogale thetis), as little is known of how these species detect and respond to olfactory cues of predation risk. We observed that, when presented with a synthetic predator scent mimicking dog urine, the social forager, T. thetis, tended to spend more time close to the predator odour, while the solitary forager, M. parma, exhibited an aversive response. The results suggest that social and ecological constraints on the sensory modalities used in predator detection may influence how macropodids respond to olfactory predator cues. © CSIRO 2005.
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