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Ontogeny of scent marking behaviours in an apex carnivore

In: Behaviour
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  • 1 Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois, 1816 S. Oak Street, Champaign, IL 61820, USA
  • | 2 School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
  • | 3 Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820, USA
  • | 4 Center for Integrated Spatial Research, Environmental Studies Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, USA
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Abstract

Puma (Puma concolor) communication with conspecifics is via indirect scent marking behaviours that are important for individuals to advertise their territory and reproductive status, but little is known about how the behaviours develop with age. To examine the development of scent marking behaviours, we monitored the behaviours of adult pumas and dependent kittens. Based on video recordings, we found that the frequency of puma communication behaviours significantly changed over time. Kittens exhibited olfactory investigation more frequently as they aged, but kittens generally did not exhibit scent marking behaviours. Kittens travel with their mothers until they disperse, so there is no need to establish territories or advertise availability to mate, but kittens are at risk of injury or mortality from other pumas. It is possible that there is no functional need for dependent kittens to scent mark until they mature, but there is a need for frequent use of investigative behaviours.

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