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Data from: Costs of injury for scent signalling in a strepsirrhine primate

Cite this dataset

Harris, Rachel L.; Boulet, Marylène; Grogan, Kathleen E.; Drea, Christine M. (2019). Data from: Costs of injury for scent signalling in a strepsirrhine primate [Dataset]. Dryad.


Honesty is crucial in animal communication when signallers are conveying information about their condition. Condition dependence implies a cost to signal production; yet, evidence of such cost is scarce. We examined the effects of naturally occurring injury on the quality and salience of olfactory signals in ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). Over a decade, we collected genital secretions from 23 (13 male, 10 female) adults across 34 unique injuries, owing primarily to intra-group fights. Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, we tested for differences in the chemical composition of secretions across pre-injury, injury, and recovery, in animals that did and did not receive antibiotics. Lemur genital secretions were significantly dampened and altered during injury, with patterns of change varying by sex, season, and antibiotics. Using behavioural bioassays (excluding odorants from antibiotic-treated animals), we showed that male ‘recipients’ discriminated injury status based on scent alone, directing more competitive counter marking towards odorants from injured vs. uninjured male ‘signallers.’ That injured animals could not maintain their normal signatures provides rare evidence of the energetic cost to signal production. That conspecifics detected olfactory-encoded ‘weakness’ suggests added behavioural costs: By influencing the likelihood of intra- or inter-sexual conflict, condition-dependent signals could have important implications for socio-reproductive behaviour.

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National Science Foundation, Award: BCS-0409367, BCS-1749465, IOS-0719003