Olfactory-related behaviors in the South American Coati (Nasua nasua)
Knowledge about the use and behavioural relevance of the different senses in the South American Coati is limited. The aim of the present study was therefore to investigate the use of the sense of smell in this species. Twenty-five captive coatis were observed at the zoo of La Paz for a total of 120 hours to collect data on olfactory-related behaviors. The coatis frequently performed behaviors in response to the detection of odors such as sniffing on the ground, on objects, on food, on conspecifics, or in the air. In contrast, they did not display many odor depositing behaviors such as urinating, defecating, or scent-marking. The most frequently performed olfactory-related behavior was “sniffing on ground” which accounted for an average of 40 % of all recorded behaviors. In general, both adult males and non-males (here defined as adult females, as well as sub-adults and juveniles of both sexes) performed olfactory-related behaviors at similar frequencies. However, a few frequency differences for certain behaviors were found in the morning and in the afternoon, and in food or no food conditions, respectively. When food was present, for example, the coatis spent less time on olfactory-related foraging behaviors like “sniffing on ground” and “nose-digging” compared to when food was not present. The finding that scent-marking was rare in this captive group, indicates little need for territorial marking or communication of reproductive state under these circumstances. Findings from this study support the idea that Nasua nasua use their sense of smell in a variety of different contexts, and further studies are needed to extend the results.
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