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Evaluating spatial distributions of scent-marks in semi free-ranging groups of Lemur Catta at the Duke Lemur Center

Authors: Shallu Prasher*, , Thomas Pingel, Virginia Tech, Mitchell Irwin, Northern Illinois University
Topics: Animal Geographies
Keywords: spatial ecology, primates, GPS offsets
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 4:35 PM
Room: Virtual Track 2
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Scent-marking is a widespread form of olfactory signaling exhibited in mammals and for a select
group of primates. Although research exists on scent-marking in lemurs, analyses of how lemur
group scent-marking distributions map onto their home range are lacking. The endangered ring-
tailed lemur (Lemur catta) deposits scent-marks using its ano-genital, chest, and wrist glands.
This project was designed to collect data on two groups of semi-free-ranging captive ring-tailed
lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center to first assess how scent-marks are distributed within their
home ranges and, second, to evaluate whether intersexual differences in scent-marking behavior
occur.
I collected observational and GPS offset data on the two groups of ring-tailed lemurs from May
22 to July 18, 2018. Data was analyzed with ArcMap 10.6.1 and R 3.5.1. Both groups clearly
exhibited a territorial function of scent-marking. Scent-marks were generally deposited closer to
the perimeter, those adjacent to other groups in particular, than the center of the home range.
Common feeding sites were distributed in a similar manner. Neither group occupied their entire
home range but instead occupied areas closer to the perimeter. Scent- marking distributions were
not merely a reflection of areas occupied by the groups. Furthermore, scent-marks were
deposited at greater rates during intergroup encounters than in solitude. This finding suggests a
secondary function for scent-marking that involves intergroup communication, possibly for
mate-guarding. Males played a larger role in scent-marking than females. Over-marking patterns
for both sexes suggested an over-marking function associated with intrasexual competition for
access to mates.

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