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Introduction & Aims


In order to avoid predation, prey species have developed behavioural and sensory adaptations. Most mammalian prey species are therefore able to detect predator emitted odours and display adaptive behavioural responses e.g. avoidance or freezing.

Studies found that volatile sulphur-containing metabolites, results of a protein-rich diet, are characteristic for the odour of urine, faeces and anal-gland secretions of mammalian predators. In contrast, herbivorous mammals do not excrete these sulphur-containing compounds, which permits prey species to distinguish between predator and non-predator odours. Nonetheless, little is known whether single components of predator odour are sufficient to evoke repellent effects in prey animals or whether the complex mixture of compounds in predator odour is needed to evoke avoidance responses.

Not only odour emitted from predators can affect the prey’s behaviour, but also new environment and unknown objects can elicit anxiety-like behaviour. This phenomenon is called neophobia. The fear of the unknown is a widespread phenomenon in several different species. It has also been shown that odour cues play an important role for neophobia


The aims of the present study were:

  • to determine whether single components of predator odour elicit anxiety-like behaviour in predator-naïve mice
  • to compare the behavioural response of mice to predator odourants with those of to a fruity control odour
  • to assess the effects of the odour concentration on the behavioural response

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Last updated: 05/27/15