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Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) are able to detect hidden food using olfactory cues alone
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.
Kolmarden Wildlife Pk, Sweden.
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Biology. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5583-2697
2019 (English)In: Physiology and Behavior, ISSN 0031-9384, E-ISSN 1873-507X, Vol. 202, p. 69-76Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) are known to strongly rely on chemical signals for social communication. However, little is known about their use of the sense of smell in foraging and food detection. The aim of the present study was therefore to assess whether captive meerkats are able to (1) detect hidden food using olfactory cues alone, (2) discriminate between the odor of real food and a single food odor component, and (3) build an association between the odor of real food and a novel odor. We employed the buried food test, widely used with rodents to assess basic olfactory abilities and designed to take advantage of the propensity of certain species to dig. We found that the meerkats were clearly able to find all four food types tested (mouse, thicken, mealworm, banana) using olfactory cues alone and that they successfully discriminated between the odor of real food (banana) and a food odor component (iso-pentyl acetate). In both tasks, the animals dug in the food-bearing corner of the test arena as the first one significantly more often than in the other three corners. No significant association-building between a food odor and a novel odor was found within the 60 trials performed per animal. We conclude that meerkats are able to use olfactory cues when foraging for hidden food. Further, we conclude that the buried food test, employed for the first time with a non-rodent species, is a useful means of assessing basic olfactory capabilities in meerkats.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2019. Vol. 202, p. 69-76
Keywords [en]
Meerkats; Suricata suricatta; Olfaction; Foraging; Buried food test
National Category
Zoology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-155924DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.02.002ISI: 000460992200009PubMedID: 30726721Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85061108104OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-155924DiVA, id: diva2:1301540
Available from: 2019-04-02 Created: 2019-04-02 Last updated: 2019-04-10Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
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