Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Using mice to assess the degree of relatedness in chacma baboons

The concept of "family" and relatedness are prevalent in the animal kingdom. Individuals seem to be able to tell if they are related to one another, probably in effort to avoid incest breeding (to increase fitness). While "phenotype matching" is proposed to be one of the kin recognition mechanism between animals to assess their relatedness, "phenotype matching" using olfactory cues (body odor) have been poorly investigated and tested in anthropoids.

A chacma baboon.

Célérier et al. (2010) uses mice to assess the relatedness of chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) through olfactory cues. But, why mice you asked?
Human noses are often quite weak compared with the rest of the animal kingdom, making it hard for us to find out if baboons can be told apart by smell. Researchers therefore decided to draft much better noses — those of mice. The researchers swabbed the armpits and groins of wild chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) from two different troops of the primates in Namibia. They next tested 24 adult male Swiss mice to scents from 14 adult female baboons. They chose female baboons partly because "some male mice were peeing on male baboon odors as if they were in competition," said researcher Aurélie Célérier, a behavioral biologist at the CNRS and the University of Montpellier II, France.

Their research shows that mice can detect odor differences between individuals of the same sex and age class in another mammal species, and that the mice can perceive a higher similarity between baboons that are related than baboons that are unrelated. These results show that olfactory cues may play a role assessing the degree of relatedness in among individual baboons. Detective mice assess relatedness in baboons using olfactory cues by Célérier et al. (2010) was published on The Journal of Experimental Biology. Also read Detective Mice Help Scientists Study Baboons by Charles Q. Choi on LiveScience.

Anyone has access to this article, by any chance?

6 comments:

Raymond said...

Whoever came up with the phrase" just dumb animals" were obviously talking about humans … we can learn a lot about close to family from these guys

michellespidermonkey said...

Bah... I tried to access it through my university, and even though is says I should have access, it wouldn't let me... perhaps I need to try on campus...

Raymond Ho, FCD said...

Already got a copy, but thanks Michelle!

amcouch said...

Fascinating!

I never really considered that mammals could have a greater 'smell' per males and females; I mean, it makes sense, but I casually assumed that it would be isolated in each species. The male mouse vs. male baboon pee-fest, though, is awesome (and interesting...).

I've also just discovered this blog, and am impressed! Would you be willing to forward that copy of the study (understandable if not). Thanks!

Raymond Ho, FCD said...

Sure amcouch.

Where should I send it to? And thanks for reading The Prancing Papio!

amcouch said...

Hey Raymond... looks like I forgot to put down my email! It's amcouch AT gmail DOT com. Thanks!