Meerkats recognize distant relatives by smell, scientists have found

Meerkats can accurately recognize the smell of their relatives, even if they've never met them, which saves the animals from incestuous relationships, writing, British and South African scientists in a paper published in the journal Biology Letters.

Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) — Mongoose members of the family living in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. Meerkats live in highly organized colonies of 20-30 individuals. Because of the collective life a chance encounter with a stranger for a relative of meerkats is large enough.

Sarah Leclair (Sarah Leclaire) from Cambridge University and her colleagues studied whether female meerkats distinguish the smell of unknown but unrelated animals from unknown relatives. In the experiment, the females "offered" secret anal glands of male meerkats, which were in varying degrees of relatedness.

As it turned out, females significantly longer studied odor related animals than other people.

"This suggests that females have the ability to distinguish odors related animals" — the article says.

Earlier experiments with meerkats have shown that these animals are able to recognize each other by voice and have individual "call sign." New data indicate that they have and odor identification system "friend or foe".

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