Previous research, using habituation techniques with multiple rodent species as subjects, has demonstrated (from kin to across species) the greater perceptual similarity in the qualities of individual odours of more closely genetically related individuals ('odour-genes covariance', abbreviated 'OGC'). This predictable relationship between individual genotypes and individual odours has only been assessed in rodents in which the genetic similarities and dissimilarities are known either through laboratory breeding or by selecting odour donors from different populations or species. To study OGC within a natural population of rodents, we genotyped Spalax galili blind mole rats using ten microsatellite markers, and conducted pairwise genetic distance comparisons to estimate genetic similarity and to calculate the relatedness coefficient between pairs of individuals. We then used habituation-generalization techniques to assess whether perceived odour similarities covaried with the genetic similarities we had identified. Indeed, animals treated odours from genetically closer donors as more similar than odours from less genetically similar donors. The results suggest an accurate and subtle ability to resolve genetically determined odour distinctions among familially unrelated animals within a population. Graded differential responses to conspecific odours based on degrees of similarity between other individuals' odours and one's own have been demonstrated in kinship and species discriminations and preferences. The evidence presented here provides the basis for hypothesizing a similar process that could promote optimal outbreeding and inclusive fitness within populations of conspecifics. The evolutionary implications of these findings are discussed.
- Chemical communication
- Conspecific odour discrimination
- Genetic distance
- Relatedness coefficient
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics