Pregnancy is detected via odour in a wild cooperative breeder.
The Royal Society
© 2017 The Author(s)
Among mammals, scent has long been known to encode oestrus; however, in many species, detecting pregnancy may also be important in terms of both competition and mate-choice. Here, we show, through odour presentation experiments, that pregnancy is discernible via scent by both sexes in the cooperatively breeding banded mongoose, Mungos mungo Males spent more time investigating and were more likely to scent mark the odours of non-pregnant females, compared to pregnant females. Females showed increased levels of scent marking when odours were of the same reproductive state as themselves. These results present the first direct demonstration that pregnancy is detectable via scent in wild cooperative breeders. Detecting pregnancy may be particularly important in cooperative breeders as, in addition to the competition between males for receptive mates, there is also intense competition between females for access to alloparental care. Consequently, dominant females benefit from targeting reproductive suppression towards subordinates that represent direct threats, such as pregnant females.
J.M. was funded by a Liverpool John Moores University Postgraduate Scholarship.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from The Royal Society via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 13 (11)
Place of publication