Olfactory recognition of snake cues by fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rats Melomys cervinipes

Paulling, Kelsey, Wilson, David, and Rymer, Tasmin L. (2019) Olfactory recognition of snake cues by fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rats Melomys cervinipes. Behaviour, 156 (12). pp. 1235-1253.

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Abstract

Rodents rely on their sensitive olfactory systems to detect and respond to predators.We investigated the ability of a native Australian rodent, the fawn-footed mosaic-tailed rat Melomys cervinipes, to detect, recognise, and discriminate between two species of native snakes. We used snake sheds from a sympatric venomous red-bellied black snake Pseudechis porphyriacus and a non-sympatric non-venomous Stimson’s python Antaresia stimsoni. 20 mosaic-tailed rats each experienced three olfactory tests using a Y-maze. Rats were first exposed to one snake shed against a paper control, and then exposed to the other snake shed against a paper control. Which rat experienced which shed first was allocated randomly. Mosaic-tailed rats were then exposed to both sheds simultaneously. Rats could detect the snake sheds, spending longer investigating, and making more visits to, the sheds than the paper control. They also recognised the sheds as potentially dangerous, reducing their total investigation over time, but increasing their frequency of visits. However, rats did not discriminate between sheds, suggesting a general strategy for assessing the identity of reptilian predators.

Item ID: 63061
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1568-539X
Keywords: olfaction, olfactory, recognition, reptile, rodent, tropical.
Copyright Information: © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019. The authors' accepted version of this paper will be available Open Access from ResearchOnline@JCU from 21 September 2020.
Funders: James Cook University
Date Deposited: 12 May 2020 04:28
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 70%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960899 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity of Environments not elsewhere classified @ 30%
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