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Functions of Scent-Urination in Ungulates with Special Reference to Feral Goats (Capra hircus L.)
Bruce E. Coblentz
The American Naturalist
Vol. 110, No. 974 (Jul. - Aug., 1976), pp. 549-557
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2459577
Page Count: 9
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Scent-urination is documented and described for the males of several bovid and cervid species. Evidence is given indicating that the fluid released is in all cases urine, and not semen as is commonly assumed, although there is a possibility that both are involved owing to the apparent "hybrid" nature of the act. The significance of scent-urination has not been determined by experimentation, but behavioral observations suggest that in male-male interactions the urine indicates both age dominance and physical condition. Physical condition is indicated by metabolic by-products excreted via the urine and age dominance by the strong odor. The odor is probably the primary male-male function of the behavior, although the metabolites are the cue by which subdominants determine the dominants' decline in condition. The possibility that the behavior functions primarily in male-female interactions cannot be entirely ruled out. In fact, the behavior may have evolved to hasten and synchronize the onset of estrous to coincide with the male's peak condition. The odor of males seems to increase with age, and this odor serves to mask the metabolities in order to increase the dominants' tenure of breeding status. Dominants are selected to be better able to mask their decline as indicated by the excreted metabolites, and subdominants are selected to better perceive the decline in spite of the deception.
The American Naturalist © 1976 The University of Chicago Press