Sunday, 15 January 2017

Rhinos' Communal Toilets Are Poo-Powered Social Networks

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | January 11, 2017 06:29am ET

In the world of Harry Potter, wizards and witches communicate via the magical Floo Network. White rhinos, however, use a less magical and smellier communication system: a poo network.

Scientists recently discovered that white rhinos' dung contains status updates, with the feces odor broadcasting chemical signals about a rhino's age and sex, and about whether females are in heat or if males have staked out territory.

And forget about private messaging — rhinos use shared defecation areas to leave dispatches that can be "read" by all the other rhinos in their social group, according to a new study. 

Communication through urine is well known in many animal species, with males frequently spraying urine to mark their territories and establish dominance. But less is understood about the role dung might play in animals' social communication, the study authors reported.
The researchers suspected that dung likewise included chemicals that can relay specific messages related to mating and territory.

And they were particularly interested in animals that group together and poop together, defecating in communal sites and later making scents of all those mixed — and fragrant — olfactory signals.

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