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Chemical Cues, Hibernation and Reproduction in Female Short-Beaked Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus setosus): Implications for Sexual Conflict


Harris, RL and Cameron, EZ and Davies, NW and Nicol, SC, Chemical Cues, Hibernation and Reproduction in Female Short-Beaked Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus setosus): Implications for Sexual Conflict, Chemical Signals in Vertebrates 13, Springer, BA Schulte, TE Goodwin, MH Ferkin (ed), Switzerland, pp. 145-166. ISBN 9783319220260 (2016) [Research Book Chapter]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 Springer International Publishing Switzerland

DOI: doi:10.1007/978-3-319-22026-0_11


Communication is vital for coordinating reproduction in many sexually-reproducing vertebrates (Andersson 1994; Bradbury and Vehrencamp 2011). In seasonal breeders, signals and cues related to reproduction (i.e. plumage, coloration, behavior, odor) tend to vary se~sonally with reproductive state, thereby minimizing signaling costs (Gosling et al. 2000; Zala et al. 2004) and ensuring potential mates are not attracted at inappropriate times (Andersson 1994; Johansson and Jones 2007; Uhrig et al. 2012). Temporal changes in signaling activity and changes in composition may vary not only by season, but also show different patterns depending on the type of signal modality, since cost and information content may vary by signal type (Candolin 2003; Wyatt 2003). Here, we focus on olfactory (chemical) cues, the primary mode of communication in many mammals (Wyatt 2003).

Seasonality in mate-attracting signals and reproductive physiology might be particularly strong in animals which undergo periods of torpor or hibernation, as they have a reduced active period during which mate-locating, courtship and reproduction can occur. Along with depressing metabolic rate and body temperature (Geiser 2004, 2011), torpor and hibernation down-regulate ordinary behavior patterns (Wimsatt 1969), endocrine system and reproductive organ function (Hudson and Wang 1979) and probably also inhibit signaling activity, since the size and activity of scent glands are under endocrine control (Ebling 1977). In most hibernating species, mating follows a period of euthermia which allows time for gonadal development, spermatogenesis and scent gland development (Dark 2005). However, winter torpor and mating activity are closely timed or even overlap in some vertebrates(Thomas et al. 1979; Boyles et al. 2006; Shine 2012), suggesting signal production may occur even when body temperature and metabolic rate are reduced (e.g. Parker and Mason 2009). However, garter snakes (LeMaster and Mason 2002) and some hibernating mammals (Exner et al. 2003; Blumstein et al. 2004) may overwinter in groups, so could use visual cues to locate potential mates once they have rewarmed. The effects of hibernation on mammalian chemical signals have not been directly investigated.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:chemical cues, hibernation, reproduction, short-beaked echidna, Tachyglossus
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Ecological Physiology
Objective Division:Environment
Objective Group:Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity
Objective Field:Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity
Author:Harris, RL (Miss Rachel Harris)
Author:Cameron, EZ (Professor Elissa Cameron)
Author:Davies, NW (Associate Professor Noel Davies)
Author:Nicol, SC (Associate Professor Stewart Nicol)
ID Code:116936
Year Published:2016
Deposited By:Biological Sciences
Deposited On:2017-05-25
Last Modified:2017-10-17

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