Evidence for scent marking in vervet monkeys?


We used data from two troops of free-ranging vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops) to assess the proposition that the conspicuous chest rubbing observed in this species constitutes scent-marking behavior. Our data indicate that chest-rubbing behavior is associated with higher-ranking males who are more likely to do so during the breeding season in areas where territorial encounters occur. We found no indication that chest rubbing was triggered directly by encounters between troops. We conclude that these data, in conjunction with reports of chest rubbing from other Old World monkeys, are sufficiently suggestive of scent marking to warrant further, directed research and support the suspicion that olfactory cues remain important to catarrhines in a number of domains.

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We are grateful to Mark and Sarah Tompkins for permission to work at Samara and to them and the reserve staff for logistical support. Ria Boner assisted with data collection and Kitty and Richard Viljoen, together with Leslie Brown and Tersia de Beer, helped in many, various ways. The study was funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (Canada) and National Research Foundation (South Africa) awards.

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Correspondence to N. J. Freeman.

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Freeman, N.J., Pasternak, G.M., Rubi, T.L. et al. Evidence for scent marking in vervet monkeys?. Primates 53, 311–315 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-012-0304-8

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  • Vervet monkey
  • Olfaction
  • Dominance
  • Territoriality