Thursday, 13 August 2015

Scent matters to fur seals


Date: August 12, 2015

Source: Universitaet Bielefeld

Summary: Antarctic fur seals have unique ‘scent profile’ to recognize their pups, scientists have found. Until now researchers thought voice recognition was mostly important for finding their young, but now it is proven that scent also plays a crucial part.

Researchers studying Antarctic fur seals have discovered their scent has a unique 'profile' which enables them to recognize their offspring and family members. Until now researchers thought voice recognition was mostly important for finding their young, but now it is proven that scent also plays a crucial part. The results are published in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The sense of smell and an animal's scent is an important means of communication in the animal kingdom. This applies not only to social interactions, but also to territorial behaviour, recognizing kin and when selecting a mate. However, understanding communication by smell is very challenging because of the mixture of chemicals on an animal's skin -- it may be affected by hormones, the microbial flora, body condition and health, and environmental factors. A team of scientists from the Bielefeld University and British Antarctic Survey sampled the skin and fur from dozens of mothers and their pups from two different colonies on the breeding beaches at Bird Island Research Station near the sub Antarctic Island of South Georgia. They found the scent of mothers and pups had similar characteristics.

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