Male degus, Octodon degus, modify their dustbathing behavior in response to social familiarity of previous dustbathing marks

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Abstract

A previous experiment suggested that male degus, Octodon degus, use dustbathing during intrasexual communication. Herein, we assessed whether dustbathing by male and female degus is influenced by the social familiarity of previous marks. During 15-min tests, we contrasted the behavior of degus individually exposed during to an arena containing loose, previously dustbathed sand by a same-sex and socially familiar individual with that of degus exposed to an arena with soil previously dustbathed by a same-sex but socially unfamiliar conspecific. We measured the number of dustbathing events per min, the latency to first dustbathing event, and the location of dustbathing events by depositor and responder individuals. Both male and female degus dustbathe at a higher rate when subjected to soil previously used by a familiar conspecific than when exposed to a substratum previously dustbathed by an unfamiliar degu. The latency to first dustbathing event by responder male or female degus was unaffected by the social familiarity of previous marks left by depositors. Similarly, the place chosen by male and female responders to conduct their dustbathing behavior was unrelated to the micro-location of previous marks left by a familiar or an unfamiliar depositor degu. We conclude that degus are capable of discriminating socially familiar from unfamiliar scents of conspecifics and deposited in the substratum during dustbathing. We discuss the implications of such ability in the context of degu social behavior.

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Ebensperger, L. A., & Caiozzi, A. (2002). Male degus, Octodon degus, modify their dustbathing behavior in response to social familiarity of previous dustbathing marks. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 75(1), 157–163. https://doi.org/10.4067/S0716-078X2002000100015

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