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Scent communication in the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) and potential applications for population monitoring

Kean, Eleanor Freya 2012. Scent communication in the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) and potential applications for population monitoring. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Scent is thought to be the most important mode of communication for many mammalian species, including otters. Spraint surveys, used widely to monitor otter populations, describe distribution only. Discrimination between identity parameters through chemical analysis of scent marks has been conducted for many species but the feasibility of using this to enhance population monitoring has not been fully tested. Scent presentation experiments were conducted on captive otters and provided some evidence that otters can determine the sex and reproductive status of the scent depositor. These experiments provide the first evidence of a potential role of both volatile and non-volatile compounds in otter communication, and revealed that otters learn where scent signals are likely to be presented. A series of experiments were conducted to optimise methods for the chemical analysis of otter scent. A combination of scent sample collection from otter carcasses and captive otters enabled the description of the chemical nature of otter scent. Scent was associated with age, sex and reproductive status, but not with diet. Scent was associated with individual identity and in females, progesterone concentrations, suggesting a role in reproductive behaviours. Spatial analysis at a national scale revealed differences in scent between genetically distinct subpopulations of otters. On a catchment scale there was no association between scent similarity and spatial proximity. Although scent differed significantly with individual identity, differences were not at sufficient resolution to allow discrimination between unknown samples collected in the wild. This thesis makes several major steps towards unravelling the complexity of otter scent communication and adds to the knowledge of otter biology and behaviour.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Uncontrolled Keywords: odour communication wildlife survey Eurasian otter European otter chemical communication pheromone
Funders: Environment Agency and RWE npower
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 03:52

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