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Pregnancy is detected via odour in a wild cooperative breeder

Mitchell, J, Cant, MA and Nichols, HJ (2017) Pregnancy is detected via odour in a wild cooperative breeder. Biology Letters. ISSN 1744-957X

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Among mammals, scent has long been known to encode oestrus, however in many species detecting pregnancy may also be important in terms of both competition and mate-choice. Here we show, through odour presentation experiments, that pregnancy is discernible via scent by both sexes in the cooperatively breeding banded mongoose. Males spent more time investigating and were more likely to scent mark the odours of non-pregnant females, compared to pregnant females. Females showed increased levels of scent marking when odours were of the same reproductive state as themselves. These results present the first direct demonstration that pregnancy is detectable via scent in wild cooperative breeders. Detecting pregnancy may be particularly important in cooperative breeders as, in addition to the competition between males for receptive mates, there is also intense competition between females for access to alloparental care. Consequently, dominant females benefit from targeting reproductive suppression towards subordinates that represent direct threats, such as pregnant females.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 06 Biological Sciences
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Natural Sciences & Psychology (closed 31 Aug 19)
Publisher: Royal Society, The
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2017 11:17
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 11:03
DOI or ID number: 10.1098/rsbl.2017.0441
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/7436
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