A1 Journal article (refereed)
Bank vole alarm pheromone chemistry and effects in the field (2021)

Sievert, T., Ylönen, H., Blande, J. D., Saunier, A., van der Hulst, D., Ylönen, O., & Haapakoski, M. (2021). Bank vole alarm pheromone chemistry and effects in the field. Oecologia, 196(3), 667-677. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-021-04977-w

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Sievert, Thorbjörn; Ylönen, Hannu; Blande, James D.; Saunier, Amélie; van der Hulst, Dave; Ylönen, Olga; Haapakoski, Marko

Journal or series: Oecologia

ISSN: 0029-8549

eISSN: 1432-1939

Publication year: 2021

Volume: 196

Issue number: 3

Pages range: 667-677

Publisher: Springer

Publication country: Germany

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-021-04977-w

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Partially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/76950


Chemical communication plays an important role in mammalian life history decisions. Animals send and receive information based on body odour secretions. Odour cues provide important social information on identity, kinship, sex, group membership or genetic quality. Recent findings show, that rodents alarm their conspecifics with danger-dependent body odours after encountering a predator. In this study, we aim to identify the chemistry of alarm pheromones (AP) in the bank vole, a common boreal rodent. Furthermore, the vole foraging efficiency under perceived fear was measured in a set of field experiments in large outdoor enclosures. During the analysis of bank vole odour by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, we identified that 1-octanol, 2-octanone, and one unknown compound as the most likely candidates to function as alarm signals. These compounds were independent of the vole’s sex. In a field experiment, voles were foraging less, i.e. they were more afraid in the AP odour foraging trays during the first day, as the odour was fresh, than in the second day. This verified the short lasting effect of volatile APs. Our results clarified the chemistry of alarming body odour compounds in mammals, and enhanced our understanding of the ecological role of AP and chemical communication in mammals.

Keywords: mammals; Clethrionomys glareolus; pheromones; smell; predators; prey

Free keywords: bank vole; alarm pheromone; mammalian body odour; predator-prey interactions

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Last updated on 2021-09-08 at 14:28