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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 58(5)

Socio-seasonal changes in scent-marking habits in the carnivorous marsupial Dasyurus maculatus at communal latrines

Monica Ruibal A D , Rod Peakall A and Andrew Claridge B C

A Evolution, Ecology and Genetics, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
B Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, Parks and Wildlife Group, Planning and Performance Unit, Southern Branch, Queanbeyan, NSW 2620, Australia.
C School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy, Northcott Drive, Canberra, ACT 2620, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: monica.ruibal@anu.edu.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 58(5) 317-322 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO10040
Submitted: 4 June 2010  Accepted: 25 November 2010   Published: 27 January 2011

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Scat DNA analyses and monthly monitoring were used to elucidate patterns of latrine use in a free-ranging population of a rare Australian marsupial carnivore, the spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) Kerr. In all, 132 latrines were identified at large complex outcrops and on bedrock in drainage lines, creeks and rivers at a single woodland site in south-eastern mainland Australia. Annual cyclic variation in scat deposition was found over the two years that latrines were monitored. Peaks in scat deposition on latrines coincided with seasonal social behaviours and differed between sites on outcrops and sites along drainage lines. A marked increase in scat deposition on latrines in drainage lines was recorded during the mating season and at outcrop latrines when females were nursing young. Genetic analyses of scats collected over one breeding season revealed that multiple individuals of both sexes defaecated at latrines. The communal use of latrines during the mating season along with the seasonal patterns of scat deposition demonstrates that latrines are important scent-marking sites that facilitate social communication among individuals of this solitary-living species. The collective evidence indicates that latrines play a major role in aiding reproduction and interindividual spacing.


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