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Article

Sexual Dimorphism in Crowned Lemur Scent-Marking

1
Department of Biology, Chemistry and Forensic Science, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton WV1 1LY, UK
2
Department of Anthropology & Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution Research (BEER) Centre, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Alessandro Cozzi
Animals 2021, 11(7), 2091; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11072091
Received: 28 May 2021 / Revised: 7 July 2021 / Accepted: 7 July 2021 / Published: 14 July 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Behavior: Insights into Chemical Communication)
Primates are typically thought to use hearing and vision more than the sense of smell. However, lemurs show a complex olfactory repertoire which includes conspicuous scent-marking behaviours (i.e., a form of olfactory communication displayed by animals that deposit their odour in specific places to transmit a message to other animals). We studied two pairs of crowned lemurs at Colchester and Twycross zoos (UK) by combining behavioural observations and chemical analyses of odour secretions released via scent-marking. Male lemurs scent-marked most frequently, showing three types of behaviours: ano-genital marking for applying their scent onto females; head marking for placing their secretions on or near the mark left by another individual; and wrist marking to deposit their mark in specific meaningful areas of the enclosure. Female lemurs displayed only ano-genital marking, primarily on feeding devices. We detected a total of 38 volatile compounds in male ano-genital scent-marks and 26 in female ano-genital odour secretions, including many compounds that have been identified in odour profiles of other primates. In conclusion, we found sexual dimorphism in crowned lemur scent-marking. In males, head and wrist marking behaviours would play defensive territorial functions, while ano-genital marking may be related to socio-sexual communication; female ano-genital marking could be involved in resource defense. This study contributes to improving our understanding of lemur communication.
Primates are traditionally considered to have a poor sense of smell. However, olfaction is important for non-human primates as demonstrated by conspicuous scent-marking behaviours in lemurs. We studied two pairs (n = 4) of crowned lemurs (Eulemur coronatus) housed at Colchester and Twycross zoos (UK) by combining behavioural observations and chemical analyses of scent-marks and glandular swabs. We recorded observations of olfactory behaviours for 201 h using instantaneous scan sampling. We investigated the volatile compounds of ano-genital odour secretions (n = 16) using solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Males scent-marked most frequently, displaying ano-genital marking for allomarking, head marking for countermarking and wrist marking in specific areas of the enclosure. Females displayed ano-genital marking, predominantly on feeding devices. We detected a total of 38 volatile components in all male ano-genital scent-marks and 26 in all female samples of ano-genital odour secretions, including a series of esters, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, terpenes, volatile fatty acids and hydrocarbons that have been identified in odour profiles of other primates. In conclusion, we found sexual dimorphism in crowned lemur scent-marking. Male head and wrist marking behaviours might play defensive territorial functions, while ano-genital marking would be related to socio-sexual communication as chemical mate-guarding. Female ano-genital marking might be involved in resource defense. View Full-Text
Keywords: communication; olfaction; scent-marking; gas chromatography–mass spectrometry; Eulemur coronatus communication; olfaction; scent-marking; gas chromatography–mass spectrometry; Eulemur coronatus
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MDPI and ACS Style

Elwell, E.J.; Walker, D.; Vaglio, S. Sexual Dimorphism in Crowned Lemur Scent-Marking. Animals 2021, 11, 2091. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11072091

AMA Style

Elwell EJ, Walker D, Vaglio S. Sexual Dimorphism in Crowned Lemur Scent-Marking. Animals. 2021; 11(7):2091. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11072091

Chicago/Turabian Style

Elwell, Emily J., David Walker, and Stefano Vaglio. 2021. "Sexual Dimorphism in Crowned Lemur Scent-Marking" Animals 11, no. 7: 2091. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11072091

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