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Lemurs use sight, sound and even smell to communicate. Some researchers are studying lemur vocalizations — the barks, high-pitched shrieks, grunts, chirps and other sounds that lemurs use to alert fellow group members when predators are near, to warn competitors to stay away, or to communicate with other group members who might be far away in the forest. Other researchers are studying the complex language of lemur scents. Some lemur species have scent glands on their genitals, others have glands on their chests, hands or heads, each of which makes different scents that they dab on branches and tree trunks as they move through the trees.Combined with odor cues in urine, lemurs use these scents to distinguish between males and females, sniff out the best mate, mark the boundaries of their territories, and even tell when a female is fertile. Each animal has a unique odor profile. By studying the chemical composition of lemur scent secretions — complex bouquets made up of hundreds of odor molecules — researchers are trying to figure out what else the chemical cues might mean.

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Related Publications

Crawford, J., et al. (2011). “Smelling wrong: Hormonal contraception in lemurs alters critical female odour cues.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B 278: 122-130.