Odor discrimination in terrestrial and aquatic environments in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) living in captivity Article - Juin 2021

Jules Brochon, Gérard Coureaud, Cyril Hue, Bérénice Crochu, Isabelle Charrier

Jules Brochon, Gérard Coureaud, Cyril Hue, Bérénice Crochu, Isabelle Charrier, « Odor discrimination in terrestrial and aquatic environments in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) living in captivity  », Physiology and Behavior, juin 2021, p. 113408. ISSN 0031-9384

Abstract

Pinnipeds, as any mammal species, use multimodal signals, including olfactory ones, to ensure vital functions. Thus, some pinniped species seem able to use olfaction in both social and foraging contexts and to discriminate between different odors in air including both natural and artificial odors, but studies on that topic remain scarce. Here, we studied the olfactory capabilities of California sea lions living in captivity at La Flèche Zoo (France) in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. We used two categories of odors : social odors (from familiar individuals of the same group, unfamiliar individuals from another Zoo, animal zookeepers and a terrestrial carnivore) and non-social odors (food and odors identified as repellents in certain vertebrates). Several behavioral parameters were measured and analyzed as the number and duration of contact with the odor, mouth openings, vocalizations (air only) and air bubble production (water only). Our results, although limited by the low number of animals monitored (n = 5), suggest that California sea lions are able to discriminate between different odors both in the air and under water. In the aquatic environment, the process allowing the perception of odors remains to be characterized. Applications to this work could be considered in captive conditions as well as in the wild.

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