Matching smells

Source:, photo by Frank Vassen
The scent trails left by sifakas say a great deal about the relationships between these animals. When in love, sifakas match how they release their scent; sifaka parents give off very similar odours.
This research was conducted among Coquerel’s sifakas kept at the Duke Lemur Center (USA). The glands these animals have on their throats and genitals produce a sticky mucous that the sifakas leave behind on trees in their habitat.

Investigators studied six pairs of potential mates, noting the frequency of scent-marking and how often individuals smelled each other. This is how it came to light that the sifakas mimic their partners. If one animal began to smell another more frequently, or began to scent-mark, its partner did as well. The researchers suspect that the animals do this to get to know each other better.

Once the sifakas have offspring, this behaviour changes: they spend less time studying each other’s scents and marking. Yet the scents left by a pair with offspring are much more alike than those of animal pairs without young. It is likely that they communicate with their scents that they belong together, thus joining forces to claim territory. The scientists suspect that scent-producing bacteria are exchanged during mating and other forms of physical contact.
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