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Self-odour recognition in European storm-petrel chicks

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In common with many other species of Procellariform, the European storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) has a well-developed olfactory anatomy, and chicks are able to recognize their own nests by smell. However, it is not known which olfactory cues these birds use to locate their burrows. To find out if body scent is one of these olfactory cues we used a T-maze device to perform three different preference tests. Chicks were allowed to choose between their own odour plus their nest, and a neutral odour; between their own odour and a neutral odour (far from any nest); and finally between their own odour and the body scent of a conspecific chick. Storm-petrel chicks can apparently recognize their own body odour, even when tested against the body scent of a conspecific. Individually distinctive odours may play an important role in facilitating nest recognition. The results indicate self-odour recognition, and suggest that individual odour recognition could play an important role in social relationships of storm-petrels.


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