Scent: Animals use Odor to Defend themselves

First Posted: Feb 07, 2014 05:20 PM EST

A recent study looks at certain animal's odors and how this helps some defend themselves.

According to researchers from the University of California, Davis, social groups of animals are likely to defend themselves against predators by using a certain odor that wards off other animals.

"The idea is that we're trying to explain why certain antipredator traits evolved in some species but not others," said Stankowich, a geographer who recently completed his Ph.D. at UC Davis, via a press release.

The researchers collected data on 181 species of carnivores, a group that many species fall under. Then they ran a comparison of every possible predator-prey combination to correct a variety of natural history factors and to create a potential risk value that estimates the strength of natural selection due to predation from birds and other mammals.

Researchers discovered that unpleasant odors were preferred by nocturnal animals while more social creatures did not like the smell and preferred to be active during the day.  

"Spraying is a good close-range defense in case you get surprised by a predator, so at night when you can't detect things far away, you might be more likely to stumble upon a predator," Stankowich said, via a release.

Yet researchers note how small carnivores, such as mongooses and meerkats are often active during the day, which tends to put them at risk from birds of prey. Living in large social groups can mean "more eyes on the sky" during the daytime, according to background information from the study.

More social animals may also call out to others as a warning sign in order to prevent a problem from being hurt by an intruder.

What do you think? More information regarding the study can be found via the journal Evolution

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