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The communicatory significance of localised defecation sites in bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Wronski, Torsten, Apio, Ann, Plath, Martin
Behavioral ecology and sociobiology 2006 v.60 no.3 pp. 368-378
Tragelaphus, defecation, feces, females, home range, information exchange, males, mammals, parasites, urination
Like several other mammals, bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) deposit faeces in specific localised defecation sites (LDS). A previous study has ruled out a function of LDS in the context of parasite avoidance. In this study, we investigated the communicatory significance of LDS. In a free ranging population, we tested whether LDS serve to demarcate home ranges, and/or if LDS are used for communication in a non-territorial context. In both sexes, LDS increased significantly in number towards the periphery of individual home ranges. However, the distribution pattern of LDS, as revealed by a nearest-neighbour mapping technique (nearest distances between LDS), did not support the idea that LDS serve home range/territory-demarcation because LDS did not follow a pattern of minimal nearest-neighbour distances along the margins of home ranges. We found females to urinate more often in LDS than males. Notably, information transfer was most frequent between sending (urinating or defecating) females and receiving/responding males (urination or defecation at places where a female had previously signalled). Our results suggest that LDS mainly serve for inter-sexual communication in bushbuck.