Social partner discrimination based on sounds and scents in Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus)
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Ability to discriminate familiar conspecifics is an essential competence in any group-living species, ensuring socio-spatial cohesion, but in many animals, such as mustelids, the relative importance of the different communicative modalities for discrimination is poorly understood. In otters, there is evidence of intra-specific variation in physical appearance and in feces chemical profile, but the potential for acoustic identity coding as well as for identity decoding in visual, acoustic and olfactive domains remains unexplored. We investigated the acoustic structure of contact calls in five captive groups of small-clawed otters and found that it is possible to reliably assign one particular call to a given adult male caller. Females discriminated between familiar and unfamiliar adult males based on their sound (playback) and smell (feces) but not based on their picture, suggesting abilities to memorize and use acoustic and olfactive signatures in their daily social life.
KeywordsIndividual acoustic variability Auditory discrimination Olfactory discrimination Visual discrimination Playback Mustelids
This study was funded by the French Ministry of Research, the C.N.R.S. and the ‘Institut Universitaire de France’. We thank the staff of the French zoos for their logistical support. We are grateful to Françoise Cardou for correcting our English.
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