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Odour dialects among wild mammals

Kean, Eleanor Freya ORCID:, Bruford, Michael William ORCID:, Russo, Isa-Rita M. ORCID:, Muller, Carsten Theodor ORCID: and Chadwick, Elizabeth Anna ORCID: 2017. Odour dialects among wild mammals. Scientific Reports 7 , 13593. 10.1038/s41598-017-12706-8

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Across multiple taxa, population structure and dynamics depend on effective signalling between individuals. Among mammals, chemical communication is arguably the most important sense, underpinning mate choice, parental care, territoriality and even disease transmission. There is a growing body of evidence that odours signal genetic information that may confer considerable benefits including inbreeding avoidance and nepotism. To date, however, there has been no clear evidence that odours encode population-level information in wild mammals. Here we demonstrate for the first time the existence of ‘odour dialects’ in genetically distinct mammalian subpopulations across a large geographical scale. We found that otters, Lutra lutra, from across the United Kingdom possess sex and biogeography-specific odours. Subpopulations with the most distinctive odour profiles are also the most genetically diverse but not the most genetically differentiated. Furthermore, geographic distance between individuals does not explain regional odour differences, refuting other potential explanations such as group odour sharing behaviour. Differences in the language of odours between subpopulations have the potential to affect individual interactions, which could impact reproduction and gene-flow.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Additional Information: Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
ISSN: 2045-2322
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 September 2017
Date of Acceptance: 14 September 2017
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2024 02:19

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