A hypothetico-deductive approach to assessing the social function of chemical signalling in a non-territorial solitary carnivore
AffiliationUniversity of Cumbria
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AbstractThe function of chemical signalling in non-territorial solitary carnivores is still relatively unclear. Studies on territorial solitary and social carnivores have highlighted odour capability and utility, however the social function of chemical signalling in wild carnivore populations operating dominance hierarchy social systems has received little attention. We monitored scent marking and investigatory behaviour of wild brown bears Ursus arctos, to test multiple hypotheses relating to the social function of chemical signalling. Camera traps were stationed facing bear ‘marking trees’ to document behaviour by different age sex classes in different seasons. We found evidence to support the hypothesis that adult males utilise chemical signalling to communicate dominance to other males throughout the non-denning period. Adult females did not appear to utilise marking trees to advertise oestrous state during the breeding season. The function of marking by subadult bears is somewhat unclear, but may be related to the behaviour of adult males. Subadults investigated trees more often than they scent marked during the breeding season, which could be a result of an increased risk from adult males. Females with young showed an increase in marking and investigation of trees outside of the breeding season. We propose the hypothesis that females engage their dependent young with marking trees from a young age, at a relatively ‘safe’ time of year. Memory, experience, and learning at a young age, may all contribute towards odour capabilities in adult bears.
CitationA Hypothetico-Deductive Approach to Assessing the Social Function of Chemical Signalling in a Non-Territorial Solitary Carnivore 2012, 7 (4):e35404 PLoS ONE