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Scent marking in wild banded mongooses: 1. Sex-specific scents and overmarking


Jordan, Neil R; Manser, Marta B; Mwanguhya, Francis; Kyabulima, Solomon; Rüedi, Peter; Cant, Michael A (2011). Scent marking in wild banded mongooses: 1. Sex-specific scents and overmarking. Animal Behaviour, 81(1):31-42.

Abstract

Sexual selection has resulted in the elaboration of secondary sexual characteristics in many animals. A Overmarking occurs when one individual places its scent mark directly on top of the scent mark of another individual. Although it is almost ubiquitous among terrestrial mammals, we know little about the function of overmarking and detailed field observations are rare. We investigated the chemical composition of scents and patterns of overmarking by wild banded mongooses, Mungos mungo. Chemical analyses of anal gland secretions showed that scents were sexually dimorphic. Both male and female adults were more likely to overmark the scents of same-sex individuals. An analysis of responses to two scents on the same site suggested that the sex of the top or most recent scent was more important than that of the bottom or original scent in determining overmarking response. Juveniles also overmarked scents at high rates, but did not respond to scents in a sex-specific way. Same-sex-specific patterns within groups have not been described in any other species, and may reflect a social system with intense intrasexual competition for reproduction within both sexes. Banded mongooses live in large mixed-sex groups, with intense competition between males for females, owing to the heavily male-biased adult sex ratio and highly synchronized oestrous cycles. Oestrous synchronization may also promote intrasexual competition for males within females, as females compete simultaneously for high-quality males. Female competition for males may also be enhanced by the rewards of male-biased parental care. This investigation highlights the need for detailed studies of overmarking in the natural context, to confirm and expand upon laboratory findings.lthough mammalian scent glands, secretions and marking behaviour are commonly sexually dimorphic, these traits have received little attention compared to avian plumage and mammalian weaponry. Overmarking, when one individual places a scent mark directly over that of another individual, is of particular interest. Owing to the costs of repeatedly monitoring and covering the scent marks of rivals, overmarking may provide an honest indication of a male’s resource-holding potential, perhaps explaining why female rodents exposed to experimental overmarks subsequently prefer to associate with males whose scent mark was on top. This study on wild banded mongooses, Mungos mungo, suggests that overmarking may primarily affect behavioural mating success through male competition not by female mate choice. First, chemical analyses of anal gland secretions demonstrated that males had individually distinctive scents, and a field experiment confirmed that mongooses were able to discriminate between scents from different individuals. Observations of overmarking patterns showed a relationship between overmarking score and behavioural mating success, but we found no evidence that females actively chose to mate with males with high overmarking scores. Instead, we found that males with higher overmarking scores first mate-guarded females at a significantly younger age than males with lower overmarking scores. Since mate-guarding males obtain the vast majority of matings, this suggests that overmarking may be an important component of intrasexual competition for mating opportunities in this species.

Abstract

Sexual selection has resulted in the elaboration of secondary sexual characteristics in many animals. A Overmarking occurs when one individual places its scent mark directly on top of the scent mark of another individual. Although it is almost ubiquitous among terrestrial mammals, we know little about the function of overmarking and detailed field observations are rare. We investigated the chemical composition of scents and patterns of overmarking by wild banded mongooses, Mungos mungo. Chemical analyses of anal gland secretions showed that scents were sexually dimorphic. Both male and female adults were more likely to overmark the scents of same-sex individuals. An analysis of responses to two scents on the same site suggested that the sex of the top or most recent scent was more important than that of the bottom or original scent in determining overmarking response. Juveniles also overmarked scents at high rates, but did not respond to scents in a sex-specific way. Same-sex-specific patterns within groups have not been described in any other species, and may reflect a social system with intense intrasexual competition for reproduction within both sexes. Banded mongooses live in large mixed-sex groups, with intense competition between males for females, owing to the heavily male-biased adult sex ratio and highly synchronized oestrous cycles. Oestrous synchronization may also promote intrasexual competition for males within females, as females compete simultaneously for high-quality males. Female competition for males may also be enhanced by the rewards of male-biased parental care. This investigation highlights the need for detailed studies of overmarking in the natural context, to confirm and expand upon laboratory findings.lthough mammalian scent glands, secretions and marking behaviour are commonly sexually dimorphic, these traits have received little attention compared to avian plumage and mammalian weaponry. Overmarking, when one individual places a scent mark directly over that of another individual, is of particular interest. Owing to the costs of repeatedly monitoring and covering the scent marks of rivals, overmarking may provide an honest indication of a male’s resource-holding potential, perhaps explaining why female rodents exposed to experimental overmarks subsequently prefer to associate with males whose scent mark was on top. This study on wild banded mongooses, Mungos mungo, suggests that overmarking may primarily affect behavioural mating success through male competition not by female mate choice. First, chemical analyses of anal gland secretions demonstrated that males had individually distinctive scents, and a field experiment confirmed that mongooses were able to discriminate between scents from different individuals. Observations of overmarking patterns showed a relationship between overmarking score and behavioural mating success, but we found no evidence that females actively chose to mate with males with high overmarking scores. Instead, we found that males with higher overmarking scores first mate-guarded females at a significantly younger age than males with lower overmarking scores. Since mate-guarding males obtain the vast majority of matings, this suggests that overmarking may be an important component of intrasexual competition for mating opportunities in this species.

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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:2011
Deposited On:04 Dec 2013 15:48
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:12
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0003-3472
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2010.07.010

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