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News Bacteria in animal scent posts is nature's instant messaging

Article in 'News' Written by Arul Prakash Published Nov 12, 2013

  1. Researchers say that bacteria in animal scent posts carry an encyclopedia of hidden information about the animals that left them.

    In a study researchers from University of Michigan were able to show that symbiotic bacteria present inside a hyenas body were responsible for it's scent posts.

    animal-scent.
    Animals' scent posts might be instant messaging, relatively speaking, yet they convey an encyclopedia of information about the animals that left them.

    "When hyenas leave paste deposits on grass, the sour-smelling signals relay reams of information for other animals to read," said Kevin Theis, MSU postdoctoral researcher. "Hyenas can leave a quick, detailed message and go. It's like a bulletin board of who's around and how they're doing."

    These bacteria which are beneficial to the host left a unique messages far more diverse than what was imagined.

    "Scent posts are bulletin boards, pastes are business cards, and bacteria are the ink, shaped into letters and words that provide information about the paster to the boards' visitors," Theis said. "Without the ink, there is potentially just a board of blank uninformative cards."

    Theis and MSU zoologist Kay Holekamp used molecular surveys to study scent samples collected from scent glands of both sexes of spotted hyenas and striped hyenas. The researchers were able to observe a diverse array of odor-producing microbes in the scent.

    The type of microbes varied depending on the species and sex of the hyena.However, such variations did help in linking microbes to scent, as the scent of glands changed from species to species depending on the bacterial colonies.

    "There have been around 15 prior studies pursuing this line of research," Theis said. "But they typically relied on culture-based methods, an approach in which many of the similarities and differences in bacterial communities can be lost. If we used those traditional methods, many of the key findings that are driving our research wouldn't be detected at all."

    "Now I just need to get back into the field to test new predictions generated by this study," Theis said. "The next phase of this research will be to manipulate the bacterial communities in hyenas' scent glands to test if their odors change in predictable ways."
    • Arul Prakash

      Article by Arul Prakash

      Editor and founder of BiotechCareer.Org. He is an Industrial Biotechnologists and also a web developer, gooner, blogger, and foodie.

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