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Hyenas Send Smelly Signals With Bacterias’ Help

Update Date: Nov 12, 2013 01:09 AM EST
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For communication, hyenas streak secretions on grasses that may convey an encyclopedia of information about the animals, a new study finds. They secrete on grasses from their fist-size gland which lies beneath their tails.

The receiver of these messages can conclude about the animal’s sex, its social status and its willingness to mate.

The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences affirms that the detailed scent posts of these hyenas are products of bacteria and microbes. These are those bacterias that are in a mutual benefit relationship.

“When hyenas leave paste deposits on grass, the sour-smelling signals relay reams of information for other animals to read,” said Kevin Theis who is the paper’s lead author and also a MSU postdoctoral researcher in a press release. “Hyenas can leave a quick, detailed message and go. It’s like a bulletin board of who’s around and how they’re doing.”

During the study, researchers collected pastes from stripped and spotted hyenas from different forests located in Kenya. They then identified those bacterias by examining their genes.

“It’s an extremely important study showing the role of bacteria mediating interactions between mammals,” said David Hughes according to Live Science. David is a researcher at Penn State and is not involved in the study. “Only now are we discovering the role of what we think of as inconsequential passengers — the bacteria — and how important they are.”

However hyenas are not the only mammals that communicate through bacterial secretions.

The result is another proof that microbial communities are vital for animals well being.

“We often look at hyenas as one organism,” Hughes added in the press release. “But it’s not an organism, it’s a collection of genes that belong to the hyenas and the microbes. And that’s true for hyenas, humans, aphids — wherever we look, it’s a collection of organisms.”

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