Term of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Bruce A. Schulte

Committee Member 1

Alan W. Harvey

Committee Member 2

Lance D. McBrayer

Committee Member 3

Lance D. McBrayer

Abstract

Chemosensory behaviors are used by many mammalian species to assess chemical signals in the environment. These chemical signals may contain important information about reproductive state, identity, status, or location of conspecifics. Elephants are a long-lived species and males reproduce at a much later age than females, which provides a protracted developmental period for males. This study examined chemosensory behaviors in a population of African elephants living in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa and demonstrated that patterns emerge as elephants develop and approach sexual maturity. Older pubescent males (15-19 year olds) performed more chemosensory behaviors than younger pubescent males (10-14 year olds) and both groups of pubescent females, which supported the hypothesis that there would be an increase of these behaviors as males approach sexual maturity and the age of their first musth. It is clear that developing pubescent male elephants are paying attention to chemical signals in their environment, many of which are directly related to female reproductive condition. Increased chemosensory behavior by pubescent males observed in this study highlights the importance of chemical communication in elephants.

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