• Sex differences in scent-marking in captive red-ruffed lemurs

      Janda, Ellese D.; Perry, Kate L.; Hankinson, Emma; Walker, David; Vaglio, Stefano (Wiley, 2019-01-21)
      Primate chemical communication remains underappreciated, as primates are considered to rely on other sensory modalities. However, various lines of evidence suggest that olfaction plays an important role in primate societies, including the conspicuous scent-marking behavior of many strepsirrhines and callitrichines. Although lemurs typically show scent-marking, little is known about this behavior in red-ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata rubra). We combined behavioral observations and semiochemistry analyses to improve our understanding of scent-marking in two captive troops housed at Dudley and Twycross zoos(UK). We collected olfactory behavioral observations by focusing on two family troops (N=7) for 132hr. We investigated the volatile compounds of ano-genital scent-marks using solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and compared volatile chemical profiles with features of the signaller. Males scent-marked most frequently and predominantly in specific meaningful areas of the enclosure, while within females the occurrence of scent-marking was related to their age. We found behavioral sexual dimorphism, with male predominantly depositing secretions via neck and mandible glands and females via ano-genital glands. We identified a total of 32 volatile components of ano-genital gland secretion, including compounds that have already been found in other mammals as sex pheromones and cues to fitness, in ano-genital scent-marks spontaneously left on filter paper by adult females. Our findings suggest that red-ruffed lemurs might use scent-marking to convey information about sex and female age, with male neck marking behavior playing defensive territorial functions and ano-genital marking related to socio-sexual communication.