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Dung as a potential medium for inter-sexual chemical signaling in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus)

Ghosal, Ratna and Seshagiri, PB and Sukumar, R (2012) Dung as a potential medium for inter-sexual chemical signaling in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). In: Behavioural Processes, 91 (1). pp. 15-21.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2012.04.010


Chemical signaling is a prominent mode of male-female communication among elephants, especially during their sexually active periods. Studies on the Asian elephant in zoos have shown the significance of a urinary pheromone (Z7-12:Ac) in conveying the reproductive status of a female toward the opposite sex. We investigated the additional possibility of an inter-sexual chemical signal being conveyed through dung. Sixteen semi-captive adult male elephants were presented with dung samples of three female elephants in different reproductive phases. Each male was tested in 3 separate trials, within an interval of 1-3 days. The trials followed a double-blind pattern as the male and female elephants used in the trials were strangers, and the observer was not aware of the reproductive status of females during the period of bioassays. Males responded preferentially (P < 0.005), in terms of higher frequency of sniff, check and place behavior toward the dung of females close to pre-ovulatory period (follicular-phase) as compared to those in post-ovulatory period (luteal-phase). The response toward the follicular phase samples declined over repeated trials though was still significantly higher than the corresponding response toward the non-ovulatory phase in each of the trials performed. This is the first study to show that male Asian elephants were able to distinguish the reproductive phase of the female by possibly detecting a pre-ovulatory pheromone released in dung. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Behavioural Processes
Publisher: Elsevier Science
Additional Information: Copyright for this article is belongs to Elsevier Science.
Keywords: Asian elephant;Check;Place;Sniff;Reproduction;Cyclicity
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Division of Biological Sciences > Molecular Reproduction, Development & Genetics
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2012 08:45
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2012 08:45
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/45201

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