Having means to detect and avoid potential predators is a necessity for prey species. Most mammalian prey species are able to detect odours emitted by predators and to adapt their behaviour accordingly. These odour cues are therefore considered to act as semiochemicals. Predator odours consist of several dozen different odourants. In order to assess if single odourants elicit aversive behavioural reactions, predator-naïve CD-1 mice were presented with six odourants which are part of body-borne odours of different mammalian predator species. A two-compartment chamber was used in order to assess place-preference, motor activity and faecal excretions when the animals were simultaneously presented with a predator odourant and a blank control. Further trials were performed to assess whether the odourant concentrations had an influence on the behaviours. The only odourant that elicited a significant aversion was 3-methyl-1-butanethiol, a compound found in the anal gland secretion of skunks, when presented at a factor of 100 above the olfactory detection threshold of mice. Two other concentrations of 3-methyl-1-butanethiol did not elicit significant behavioural changes. Based on the present study, only one out of six selected predator odourants elicited a significant aversive response in CD-1 mice. This suggests that more than one odour component, or perhaps even the full mixture of odourants, may be necessary for CD-1 mice to respond to a predator odour with aversive behaviour.
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Last updated: 05/18/15