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Badgers, Meles meles, discriminate between neighbour, alien and self scent

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JournalANIMAL BEHAVIOUR
DatePublished - Sep 2007
Issue number3
Volume74
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)429-436
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

For group- living animals, the ability to discriminate between familiar individuals and strangers may allow reduced agonistic behaviour between holders of neighbouring territories, termed the `dear enemy' effect. We tested the hypothesis that Eurasian badgers can discriminate between self-, neighbour- and alien( unknown) group faeces placed near their main sett. We carried out a series of controlled field experiments over a 12- month period at the main setts of three badger groups occupying contiguous territories. The experimental design used two different treatments: `alien treatment' involved the display of self- group scents with alien- group scents and `neighbour treatment' involved the display of self- group scents with neighbour-group scents. Badgers showed heightened behavioural responses towards alien- compared with self- group scents, but there was no significant difference in response to neighbour- relative to self- group scents. The relative responses towards alien- group scents were greatest during the breeding seasons, but there were no significant seasonal differences in the responses to neighbour- group versus self- group scents. In undisturbed badger populations, levels of aggression between neighbouring territory- holders are likely to be kept relatively low through neighbour recognition. However, increased levels of aggression will be shown towards dispersing or itinerant ( alien) badgers, especially during periods such as the breeding season when the potential threats to the long- term fitness of territory owners are greatest. This behaviour may reduce the effectiveness of management strategies involving the culling of group- living wildlife hosts to reduce levels of livestock or human disease. (C) 2007 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • dear enemy effect, Eurasian badger, faeces, field experiment, Meles meles, scent recognition, territoriality, wildlife disease

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