Scent signals make lemurs prevent incest

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Washington, Dec 3 (ANI): Lemurs can avoid incest and nepotism, thanks to some specific scent signals secreted from the genital glands of others in the family, according to a new study.

Researchers have identified chemicals signals used by both male and female ring-tailed lemurs to advertise their family ties.

Christine Drea from Duke University, North Carolina, USA, worked with Maryl ne Boulet and Marie Charpentier from the same university to study the primate's scent secretions.

"We sampled 17 sexually mature females throughout the year, during the extended nonbreeding season and the relatively limited breeding season, and compared this information with data on 19 males that was taken from a previous study. By integrating genetic and biochemical data, we provide the first molecular evidence that the scent secretions expressed by the genital glands of male and female lemurs contain markers of relatedness within and between the sexes," she said.

The scents released during the competitive breeding season were more similar between relatives than nonrelatives.

This led the researchers to speculate that these markers encode information that is particularly relevant to avoid inbreeding with unfamiliar kin.

The weaker signals of genetic relatedness existing throughout the year might also be useful in facilitating nepotism between family members.

"Consistent with the scent secretions of other mammals, the genital secretions of lemurs are extremely complex and encode multiple messages. It will be interesting to find out what other messages are being transmitted by this fascinating form of communication," said Drea.

The study has been published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. (ANI)

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