Three experiments were conducted to investigate whether wholebody and pouch odors facilitate social cohesion between young Virginia opossums and their mothers just prior to weaning. In experiment 1, young oriented toward plastic buckets containing their mothers, directing significantly higher levels of investigative behavior and more distress vocalizations toward them than toward buckets containing unrelated lactating females. In experiment 2, young oriented toward and investigated empty buckets containing whole-body odors of their mothers more than empty buckets containing odors of other females. Similarly, more investigative behavior was directed toward plastic bucket lids containing pouch odors from subjects' mothers than toward pouch odors from unrelated females in experiment 3. These results suggest that social odors help young didelphid marsupials maintain contact with their mothers, as in other mammals, and that whole-body and pouch gland odors are important chemical signals in this nongregarious species.
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Holmes, D.J. Odors as cues for orientation to mothers by weanling Virginia opossums. J Chem Ecol 18, 2251–2259 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00984948
- Didelphis virginiana
- maternal-young recognition
- maternal odors
- pouch glands
- Virginia opossum