Information transfer among widely spaced individuals: latrines as a basis for communication networks in the swift fox

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In species where individuals are widely spaced instantaneous signals cannot readily form the basis of communication networks, that is several individuals within signalling range of each other. However, markings, signals that remain in the environment after the signaller has left, may fulfil this role. In this study, we have investigated the possible function of swift fox, Vulpes velox, latrines, collections of scat, urine and possibly other secretions, in a communication network context. We found that latrines had higher frequencies of occurrence inside the core (defined as the 50% kernel contour) of a pair's home-range when compared with outside the core and in areas of a pair's home-range that overlapped with neighbouring individuals when compared with those areas that did not overlap with neighbours. These were also the two areas where latrines were most likely to reoccur in the next consecutive breeding season. Furthermore, latrines in the exclusive part of a pair's home-range core and latrines in edge area overlap zones had the highest frequency of visits as determined by the rate of faecal depositions. Our interpretation of these results is that latrines possibly have a dual function. That is, they function in territory defence in the exclusive areas of a pair's core and as centres for information exchange in the outer areas of a pair's home-range that overlap with neighbouring foxes. We discuss the possible information content of latrines and the possibility of latrines forming the basis of communication networks in the swift fox.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Pages (from-to)425-432
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

Author Keywords: canidae; communication networks; latrines; olfactory communication; scent marking; swift fox; Vulpes velox


ID: 8699402