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J Comp Psychol. 2008 May;122(2):146-55. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.122.2.146.

Olfactory predator recognition in predator-naïve gray mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus).

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Institute of Zoology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Hannover, Germany.


Olfactory cues of predators, such as feces, are known to elicit antipredator responses in animals (e.g., avoidance, activity). To date, however, there is little information on olfactory predator recognition in primates. We tested whether the odor of feces of different predator categories (historical Malagasy predators and introduced predators) and of Malagasy nonpredators (control) induces antipredator behavior in captive born, predator-naïve gray mouse lemurs. In an olfactory predator experiment a mouse lemur was exposed to a particular odor, fixed at a preferred location, where the animal was trained to get a reward. The behavior of the mouse lemur toward the respective stimulus category was videotaped and quantified. Results showed that mouse lemurs avoided the place of odor presentation when the odor belonged to a predator. They reacted with a significantly enhanced activity when exposed to odors of carnivores compared to those of nonpredatory controls. These findings are in favor of a genetic predisposition of olfactory predator recognition that might be based on the perception of metabolites from meat digestion.

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