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Male hamsters discriminate estrous state from vaginal secretions and individuals from flank marks

Behavioural Processes
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2009.03.003
  • Chemical Communication
  • Estrous Discrimination
  • Estrus
  • Individual Recognition
  • Mesocricetus Auratus
  • Syrian Hamster


Abstract It is clear that male hamsters discriminate between the odors of individual, conspecific females, as shown by using habituation–dishabituation methods. However, it is not clear from past research whether male hamsters are able to discriminate between the odors of estrous and non-estrous females. A series of habituation–dishabituation experiments was conducted to determine whether males discriminated between different estrous cycle states using two female secretions, those from flank-glands and vaginal secretions. We found that, when habituated to a female flank-gland secretion, males discriminated between this female and a second female on the test trial, whether both were in estrus, both were in diestrus, or one was in estrus and the other in diestrus. There was no difference, however, in the magnitude of their dishabituation response toward flank-gland odors of females in estrus and diestrus. These results suggest that males use flank-gland odors to gain information primarily about individuals. When tested with vaginal secretions in habituation–dishabituation tests, males only showed differences in investigation when the second female was in estrus, indicating that males use vaginal secretions to gain information primarily about reproductive state.

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