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Picture of the Day

Lemurs can smell weakness in each other

Some people watch the competition carefully for the slightest signs of weakness. Lemurs, on the other hand, just give them a sniff. These primates from Madagascar can tell that a fellow lemur is weaker just by the natural scents they leave behind, finds a study on ring-tailed lemurs led by National Science Foundation-funded researchers. Males act more aggressively toward scents that smell "off." Body odor is a big deal for ring-tailed lemurs. Males and females have potent scent glands on their genitals that secrete a foul-smelling substance. When they smear these smelly secretions on twigs and branches in their territory, they leave behind a signal made up of 200 to 300 different chemicals that tells other lemurs who was there and whether they are ready to mate. In the wild and in captivity, lemurs fight to determine who's in charge or who gets to mate, chasing and lunging at each other and biting, swatting or pulling out tufts of fur. Such scuffles are normal behaviors for lemurs and can leave them with cuts, bite marks and other wounds. The researchers think the lemurs may be using scent to detect changes in their competitors' fighting ability, and act more aggressive when they smell weakness.

Visit Website | Image credit: David Haring/Duke University