Skunks' black and white color not only factor for predators to avoid them

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Washington, November 12 (ANI): A new study has determined that predators with experience of skunks avoid them not only because of their black-and-white coloration, but also because of their distinctive body shape.

The study was carried out by UC (University of California) Davis wildlife researcher Jennifer Hunter.

Hunter wanted to know how predators know a skunk is a skunk.

Biologists had assumed that the distinctive black-and-white color scheme was a marker saying, "keep away."

Hunter prepared taxidermy mounts of skunks and of gray foxes, an animal about the same size but a distinctly different shape.

Some of the stuffed skunks she dyed gray, and some of the foxes she dyed black-and-white.

She then placed the animals at 10 sites around California - in locations where skunks were abundant as well in areas where they were uncommon - and monitored them with infrared video cameras.

In locations where wild skunks were not commonly found, predators such as bears, mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes would approach, lick, roll on or attempt to drag away the stuffed skunks as well as the stuffed foxes.

But, in places where skunks were common, potential predators gave anything skunk-like, either in shape or color, a wide berth.

"They wouldn't go near them," Hunter said.

"The results suggest a much stronger learning component in prey recognition than was previously thought," she said.

She was also surprised to find that body shape, not just color, was important. (ANI)

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