Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 190, Issue 6, pp 429–435

Ultraviolet properties of Australian mammal urine

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00359-004-0507-6

Cite this article as:
Kellie, A., Dain, S.J. & Banks, P.B. J Comp Physiol A (2004) 190: 429. doi:10.1007/s00359-004-0507-6


The exploitation of predator signals by potential prey is well researched, but relatively little is known about how predators exploit chemical cues (either deliberate signals or waste by-products) produced by their prey. In Finland, the urine of some small rodents (Microtus spp. and Clethrionomys spp.) is reflective in the ultraviolet range of wavelengths, and diurnal raptors with ultraviolet vision use these urine marks to track their rodent prey. This study examines the potential for such a phenomenon in Australian systems by studying the ultraviolet properties of urine from 13 native and introduced mammal species that are variously preyed upon by raptors. Urine from all 13 species displayed various levels of ultraviolet absorbance in their urine and fluorescence in the ultraviolet range. However, no signs of ultraviolet hyper-reflectance were detected, suggesting that the urine of European voles have unique ultraviolet properties. Ultraviolet-sensitive predators in Australia may be able to distinguish between species based on variation in the ultraviolet absorbance of their urine, but ultraviolet properties did not differ between prey and non-prey species, nor marsupial and placental groups. Moreover, because many natural surfaces are ultraviolet absorbing, it is unlikely that raptors could rely upon the ultraviolet properties of urine to target key prey species.


Chemical communicationMarsupialPrey odourRodentUV

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia
  2. 2.School of Optometry and Vision Science University of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia