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.

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 July 28, 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 July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. 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:
from the past week

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