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The function of strategic tree selectivity in the chemical signalling of brown bears

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journal contribution
posted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by M Clapham, Owen NevinOwen Nevin, A Ramsey, F Rosell
Large mammals select conspicuous objects on which to deposit their scent marks, which may function to supplement the olfactory signal, visually and/or chemically. Analysing marking sites is paramount to understanding whether signallers could mitigate potential fitness costs by placing scents strategically to reduce time and energy investment. The defining characteristics of marking sites are unclear across species, and variation in the literature concerning selectivity may be explained by behavioural plasticity. We took an evolutionary perspective on the selection and spatial distribution of marking trees by brown bears, Ursus arctos, to account for such variation. Our hypothesis, that brown bears would be selective in the trees used for scent marking, was supported; the trees chosen were located in regularly visited areas, where the defence of a resource is needed. The criteria of a marking tree appear to be primarily location and then about properties that facilitate their use as a conspicuous object; bears selected rarer species and trees of larger size than the average available. Other features, such as aromatic properties of the species, bark texture and the ability of the bark to hold scent, may act additionally to determine a tree’s marking potential. The energetic investment in manufacturing pungent volatile odours could be reduced if signallers utilize tree properties to attract receivers. Across mammalian taxa, whether a tree is selected for marking appears to vary based on environmental context; the principal function is to limit the energetic costs of producing scent marks by placing marks strategically to increase the likelihood of attracting potential receivers.

Funding

Category 1 - Australian Competitive Grants (this includes ARC, NHMRC)

History

Volume

85

Issue

6

Start Page

1351

End Page

1357

Number of Pages

7

eISSN

1095-8282

ISSN

0003-3472

Location

United Kingdom

Publisher

Elsevier

Language

en-aus

Peer Reviewed

Yes

Open Access

No

External Author Affiliations

Centre for Wildlife Conservation; Higher Education Division (2013- ); TBA Research Institute; Telemark University College;

Era Eligible

Yes

Journal

Animal behaviour.