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Pheromone detection by an amphisbaenían

AuthorsCooper, William E.; López Martínez, Pilar ; Salvador Milla, Alfredo
Issue Date1994
CitationAnimal Behaviour 47(6): 1401-1411 (1994)
AbstractDetection of conspecific chemical stimuli and their use to discriminate males from females is demonstrated in an amphisbaenian, Blanus cinereus. In two experiments using randomized blocks designs, males were presented cotton swabs bearing male stimuli, female stimuli, and deionized water in counterbalanced sequence. Detection of conspecific stimuli was evident by the significantly higher tongue-flick rates by male subjects in response to chemical stimuli from precloacal pores and trunk skin of both sexes than from a control stimulus. Differential response was indicated by a significantly greater tongue-flick rate in response to female than to male precloacal pore stimuli. That more males bit applicators bearing conspecific male precloacal pore stimuli than the other stimuli also suggests functional recognition of males. That tongue-flick rates for male and female trunk skin stimuli were indistinguishable suggests that tongue-flicking the trunk skin does not allow sex recognition and that sex pheromones are not present in that region. Latency to the first tongue-flick was shorter in response to precloacal pore stimuli of females than that of males, suggesting that volatile pheromonal components most likely detected by olfaction elicit tongue-flicking. Because the sensory basis for discriminations based on tongue-flicking is presumably vomerolfaction, the possibility must be considered that olfaction contributes to the tongue-flicking rate for pheromonal responses involving analysis of lingually sampled pheromones by the vomeronasal system to both initial and later responses. Because pheromonal responses by B. cinereus are similar to those in scleroglossan lizards and snakes, the closest relatives of amphisbaenians, pheromonal communication may be plesiomorphic in this taxon. It may be selectively important in amphisbaenians due to fossoriality and reduced vision.
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