, Volume 95, Issue 10, pp 987–991 | Cite as

The asymmetric scent: ringtailed lemurs (Lemur catta) have distinct chemical signatures in left and right brachial glands

  • Leonardo DapportoEmail author
Short Communication


Distinctive cues are predicted to evolve when the benefits obtained by the recognition process overcome its costs. When individual recognition is particularly beneficial for both senders and receivers, the expression of strongly distinctive signals is predicted to evolve. On the other hand, it could be predicted that each individual should show a very stable individual signature. In the same perspective, a great stability of the individual signatures could be expected. Lemur catta is the first non-human primate in which olfactory individual recognition has been demonstrated on the basis of the specialized brachial gland secretions. In this paper, I performed gas chromatograph analyses of right and left gland samples collected in two different periods (breeding and non-breeding seasons) from seven males. The aim was to verify if a diversification in such cues, already demonstrated at the inter-individual level, also occurs at the intra-individual level between left and right glands. I verified, by discriminant analysis and chemical distance comparisons, that each gland of each lemur has its particular signature that is maintained through time. Moreover, such diversification resulted so marked to make the overall intra-individual chemical differences similar to/as strong as the inter-individual ones. Since in rodents several odors from different glands may be integrated in individual recognition, I suggest that bilateral diversification in L. catta scents may offer an enhanced distinctiveness that could provide benefits in mate choice and social relationships.


Lemur catta Asymmetry Chemical signatures Individual recognition Gas chromatography 



Thanks are due to people in Museo di Storia Naturale dell'Università di Pisa, Giardino Zoologico Città di Pistoia and Parco Zoo Punta Verde and Centro Interdipartimentale di Spettrometria di Massa dell'Università di Firenze for facilitating this work. Marta Biaggini and three anonymous referees for their useful comments. All experiments are conformed to the Italian law.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biologia Evoluzionistica“Leo Pardi”, Florence UniversityFirenzeItaly

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