Mateo, J.M. 2006. The nature and representation of individual recognition cues in Belding's ground squirrels. Animal Behaviour, 71, 141-154.
In many taxonomic groups odours provide cues to species identity, reproductive status, genetic relatedness and individual identity. These odour cues are often used to mark territories or other resources and to recognize individuals through direct or indirect olfactory investigation. Belding's ground squirrels (Spermophilus beldingi) frequently scent mark their environment and they also investigate the scent glands of conspecifics, which suggests that odours play a modulating role in their social relationships. I conducted s tudies t o determine what information is conveyed by various S. beldingi odours and w hether this information is used by conspecifics for social recognition. S. beldingi produce a number of cues that are individually distinct, including odours from oral, dorsal, pedal and anal glands and from ears, but apparently not from urine, although it is unclear if all of these odours are used for social recognition purposes. This discrimination among odours of individuals does not require prior familiarity with the odour bearers. The volatile components of some odours are sufficient to permit individual discrimination, which may explain how animals appear to ‘recognize' each other from a short distance. Finally, S. beldingi incorporate multiple odours into their memories of conspecifics, as perception of one odour of an individual generalizes to a second odour from it, suggesting a mental representation of familiar individuals. The production of multiple unique odours may facilitate accurate discrimination of conspecifics along several social dimensions, and indeed some of these odours also vary with relatedness. Together, these data indicate a rich olfactory milieu mediating the social lives of S. beldingi .