Odour-genes covariance within a natural population of subterranean Spalax galili blind mole rats

Shay Tzur, Josephine Todrank, Andreas Juergens, Eviatar Nevo, Giora Heth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-490
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Chemical communication
  • Conspecific odour discrimination
  • Genetic distance
  • Microsatellites
  • Relatedness coefficient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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