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Olfactory discrimination performance and longterm odor memory in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus)
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
2012 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 40 credits / 60 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Behavioral evidence suggests that Asian elephants strongly rely on their sense of smell in a variety of contexts including foraging and social communication. Using a food-rewarded two-alternative operant conditioning procedure, three female Asian elephants were tested on their olfactory discrimination ability with 1-aliphatic alcohols, n-aldehydes, 2-ketones, n-carboxylic acids and with a set of twelve enantiomeric odor pairs. When presented with pairs of structurally related aliphatic odorants, the discrimination performance of the elephants increased with decreasing structural similarity of the odorants. Nevertheless, the animals successfully discriminated between all aliphatic odorants even when these only differed by one carbon atom. The elephants were also able to discriminate between all twelve enantiomeric odor pairs tested. Additionally, the elephants showed an excellent long-term odor memory and remembered the reward value of previously learned odor pairs after three weeks and one year of recess. Compared to other species tested previously on the same sets of odorants, the Asian elephants performed at least as good as mice and clearly better than human subjects, South African fur seals, squirrel monkeys, pigtail macaques, and honeybees. Taken together, these results support the notion that the sense of smell may play an important role in regulating the behavior of Asian elephants.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. , 37 p.
Keyword [en]
Asian elephant; Elephas maximus; Behavioral testing; Olfactory discrimination; Olfactory memory
National Category
Behavioral Sciences Biology
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-78026ISRN: LITH-IFM-A-Ex--12/2639--SEOAI: diva2:530821
External cooperation
Kolmårdens djurpark
Subject / course
Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine, Forestry
Available from: 2012-06-25 Created: 2012-06-04 Last updated: 2012-06-25Bibliographically approved

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Department of Physics, Chemistry and BiologyThe Institute of Technology
Behavioral Sciences Biology

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