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Article in Journal ()

Wild Western Lowland gorillas signal selectively using odor

Citation
Klailova M & Lee PC (2014) Wild Western Lowland gorillas signal selectively using odor, PLoS ONE, 9 (7), Art. No.: e99554.

Abstract
Mammals communicate socially through visual, auditory and chemical signals. The chemical sense is the oldest sense and is shared by all organisms including bacteria. Despite mounting evidence for social chemo-signalling in humans, the extent to which it modulates behavior is debated and can benefit from comparative models of closely related hominoids. The use of odor cues in wild ape social communication has been only rarely explored. Apart from one study on wild chimpanzee sniffing, our understanding is limited to anecdotes. We present the first study of wild gorilla chemo-communication and the first analysis of olfactory signalling in relation to arousal levels and odor strength in wild apes. If gorilla scent is used as a signalling mechanism instead of only a sign of arousal or stress, odor emission should be context specific and capable of variation as a function of the relationships between the emitter and perceiver(s). Measured through a human pungency scale, we determined the factors that predicted extreme levels of silverback odor for one wild western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) group silverback. Extreme silverback odor was predicted by the presence and intensity of inter-unit interactions, silverback anger, distress and long-calling auditory rates, and the absence of close proximity between the silverback and mother of the youngest infant. Odor strength also varied according to the focal silverback's strategic responses during high intensity inter-unit interactions. Silverbacks appear to use odor as a modifiable form of communication; where odor acts as a highly flexible, context dependent signalling mechanism to group members and extra-group units. The importance of olfaction to ape social communication may be especially pertinent in Central African forests where limited visibility may necessitate increased reliance on other senses.

StatusPublished
AuthorsKlailova Michelle, Lee Phyllis C
Publication date09/07/2014
Date accepted by journal16/05/2014
PublisherPublic Library of Science
ISSN 1932-6203
LanguageEnglish

Journal
Plos one: Volume 9, Issue 7

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