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Follow your nose: leaf odour as an important foraging cue for mammalian herbivores
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology. The University of Sydney, Australia.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0031-2755
Number of Authors: 42016 (English)In: Oecologia, ISSN 0029-8549, E-ISSN 1432-1939, Vol. 182, no 3, p. 643-651Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Studies of odour-driven foraging by mammals focus on attractant cues emitted by flowers, fruits, and fungi. Yet, the leaves of many plant species worldwide produce odour, which could act as a cue for foraging mammalian herbivores. Leaf odour may thus improve foraging efficiency for such herbivores in many ecosystems by reducing search time, particularly but not only, for plants that are visually obscured. We tested the use of leaf odour by a free-ranging mammalian browser, the swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) to find and browse palatable tree seedlings (Eucalyptus pilularis). Wallabies visited patches non-randomly with respect to the presence of seedlings. In the absence of visual plant cues, they used leaf odour (cut seedlings in vials) to find patches earlier, and visited and investigated them more often than control patches (empty vials), supporting the hypothesis that wallabies used seedling odour to enhance search efficiency. In contrast, the grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), a grazer, showed no response to seedling odour. When the availability of seedling visual and olfactory cues was manipulated, wallabies browsed seedlings equally quickly in all treatments: upright (normal cues), pinned to the ground (reduced visual cues), and upright plus pinned seedlings (double olfactory cues). Odour cues play a critical role in food-finding by swamp wallabies, and these animals are finely tuned to detecting these cues with their threshold for detection reached by odours from only a single plant. The global significance of leaf odour in foraging by mammalian herbivores consuming conifers, eucalypts, and other odour-rich species requires greater attention.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 182, no 3, p. 643-651
Keywords [en]
Olfaction, Plant-herbivore interaction, Plant toxin, Terpene, VOC
National Category
Biological Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-174680DOI: 10.1007/s00442-016-3678-2ISI: 000385675100002PubMedID: 27368609OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-174680DiVA, id: diva2:1367546
Available from: 2019-11-04 Created: 2019-11-04 Last updated: 2019-11-04Bibliographically approved

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