Journal of Chemical Ecology

, 32:2617

First online:

Exposure to Urine of Canids and Felids, but not of Herbivores, Induces Defensive Behavior in Laboratory Rats

  • Markus FendtAffiliated withTierphysiologie, Zoologisches Institut, Fakultät für Biologie, Universität TübingenNovartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Neuroscience Research Email author 

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Predator odors induce defensive behavior in many prey species. For various reasons, studies carried out up to now have been unable to establish whether predator odor recognition is innate or not. Mostly, only particular odors or wild-living (i.e., experienced) test animals have been used in these studies, restricting the conclusiveness of the observations. In the present study, the behavioral effects of exposure to different predator odors on predator odor-naive laboratory male rats were compared with the effects of different nonpredator odors and of a no-odor control stimulus. Results show that exposure to urine of canids and felids, but not of herbivores or conspecifics, induce defensive behaviors. Taken together, the study provides support for the hypothesis that there is an innate recognition of predator odors in laboratory rats.


Defensive behavior Innate fear Predator odor Predator–prey interaction Rat Rattus norvegicus Urine