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Smearing behaviour of male Leptonycteris curasoae (Chiroptera) and female responses to the odour of dorsal patches

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Female mammals are often attracted to the odours of specific males to gain information about the quality of their potential mates. Because chemical signals are readily affected by parasites and diseases, female choice should involve recognition and avoidance of parasitized males. Males of the long-nosed bat, Leptonycteris curasoae, develop a dorsal patch during the mating season that is mainly comprised of a mixture of body fluids that is transferred to the interscapular region, herein described as 'smearing behaviour'. We have shown that males with dorsal patches have low or no ectoparasite infestations, whereas males without dorsal patches show high ectoparasite loads. We analyzed the 'smearing behaviour' of males of L. curasoae to identify behavioural patterns, and tested the hypotheses that: (1) males of L. curasoae attract females by odour from their dorsal patches, and (2) females of L. curasoae perceive and prefer the odour from a dorsal patch compared to the odour from a male without such a patch. Responses of females were quantified by recording the amount of time that they spent exploring the screened enclosures that contained odours from males. Females spent significantly more time crawling upon or clinging to the roost enclosure containing the odour of males with a dorsal patch. These results support hypotheses from previous studies that odours from this patch convey information to females about the health status (ectoparasite load) of males.

Affiliations: 1: Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA, Corresponding author, current address: Laboratorio de Zoología Aplicada, Apartado Postal 786, Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela;, Email: mariana@ula.ve; 2: Departamento de Diseño Gráfico, Facultad de Arte, Universidad de Los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela; 3: Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA

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