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Scent-marking and intrasexual competition in a cooperative carnivore with low reproductive skew


Müller, C A; Manser, M B (2008). Scent-marking and intrasexual competition in a cooperative carnivore with low reproductive skew. Ethology, 114(2):174-185.

Abstract

Most mammals scent-mark and a variety of hypotheses have been put forward to explain this behaviour. Differences in the main function of scent-marking between species are likely to be related to differences in social systems. Here, we investigate the functions of scent-marking in a cooperatively breeding carnivore. In the banded mongoose (Mungos mungo), individuals of both sexes commonly breed in their natal group and reproductive skew within groups is low. Using experimental scent-mark presentations, we tested predictions of the intrasexual competition, self-advertisement to potential mates and dominance assertion hypotheses. Both males and females responded more intensely to scent marks of same-sexed than of opposite-sexed individuals. Dominant individuals counter-marked more than subordinate ones and males showed higher counter-marking rates than females, but only marginally so. During oestrus, responses to scent marks were increased by both sexes. Our findings strong
ly indicate that scent-marking in the banded mongoose primarily serves a purpose in intrasexual competition both between and within groups. Unlike in other social herpestids and some solitary rodents, we found little evidence for self-advertisement. We suggest that the peculiar social system of the banded mongoose results in self-advertisement losing importance in this species, shifting the main function of scent-marking to intrasexual competition.

Abstract

Most mammals scent-mark and a variety of hypotheses have been put forward to explain this behaviour. Differences in the main function of scent-marking between species are likely to be related to differences in social systems. Here, we investigate the functions of scent-marking in a cooperatively breeding carnivore. In the banded mongoose (Mungos mungo), individuals of both sexes commonly breed in their natal group and reproductive skew within groups is low. Using experimental scent-mark presentations, we tested predictions of the intrasexual competition, self-advertisement to potential mates and dominance assertion hypotheses. Both males and females responded more intensely to scent marks of same-sexed than of opposite-sexed individuals. Dominant individuals counter-marked more than subordinate ones and males showed higher counter-marking rates than females, but only marginally so. During oestrus, responses to scent marks were increased by both sexes. Our findings strong
ly indicate that scent-marking in the banded mongoose primarily serves a purpose in intrasexual competition both between and within groups. Unlike in other social herpestids and some solitary rodents, we found little evidence for self-advertisement. We suggest that the peculiar social system of the banded mongoose results in self-advertisement losing importance in this species, shifting the main function of scent-marking to intrasexual competition.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:February 2008
Deposited On:28 Mar 2008 10:29
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:22
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0179-1613
Additional Information:The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2007.01455.x

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