Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Microbes help hyenas communicate via scent

Date:
August 30, 2012
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Bacteria in hyenas' scent glands may be the key controllers of communication. New research shows a clear relationship between the diversity of hyena clans and the distinct microbial communities that reside in their scent glands.

Theis gathered information about the bacterial types present in samples of paste, a sour-smelling secretion that hyenas deposit on grass stalks.
Credit: Photo courtesy of MSU

Bacteria in hyenas' scent glands may be the key controllers of communication.

Related Articles


The results, featured in the current issue of Scientific Reports, show a clear relationship between the diversity of hyena clans and the distinct microbial communities that reside in their scent glands, said Kevin Theis, the paper's lead author and Michigan State University postdoctoral researcher.

"A critical component of every animal's behavioral repertoire is an effective communication system," said Theis, who co-authored the study with Kay Holekamp, MSU zoologist. "It is possible that without their bacteria, many animals couldn't 'say' much at all."

This is the first time that scientists have shown that different social groups of mammals possess different odor-producing bacterial communities. These communities produce unique chemical signatures, and the hyenas can distinguish among them by using their noses.

Past research has demonstrated important roles played by microbes in digestion and other bodily functions. It's also widely known that most mammals use scent to signal a wide range of traits, including sex, age, reproductive status and group membership. This study details bacteria living in a mutually beneficial relationship with their hyena hosts. It also highlights the contribution of new DNA sequencing technologies showcasing the role good, symbiotic bacteria play in animal behavior.

On the grassy Kenyan plains, Theis gathered information about the bacterial types present in samples of paste, a sour-smelling secretion that hyenas deposit on grass stalks. Field samples were collected from hyenas' scent pouches and analyzed using next-generation sequence technology back at MSU labs. The samples revealed a high degree of similarities, microbial speaking, between deposits left by members of the same clans. They also varied distinctly from paste left by hyenas from other clans.

"One benefit of sharing a common microbial community in their scent pouches would be in terms of job sharing when hyenas scent mark their territory," Theis said. "Multiple members of the clan could more efficiently carry out the job and mark more territory."

Furthermore, group-specific social odors could facilitate the recognition of social partners, thereby reducing rates of squabbles within clans, he added.

Future studies will dig deeper into the relationship between bacteria and host as well as understanding the scope of information being conveyed by the bacteria.

"The complex social lives of these animals may ultimately be reliant upon their unheralded symbiotic microbial communities," Theis said.

This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kevin R. Theis, Thomas M. Schmidt, Kay E. Holekamp. Evidence for a bacterial mechanism for group-specific social odors among hyenas. Scientific Reports, 2012; 2 DOI: 10.1038/srep00615

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Microbes help hyenas communicate via scent." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120830152337.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2012, August 30). Microbes help hyenas communicate via scent. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120830152337.htm
Michigan State University. "Microbes help hyenas communicate via scent." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120830152337.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins