Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber) behavioral response to simulated territorial intruders
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionCanadian journal of zoology 78 (2000), No. 6, p. 931-935 http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjz-78-6-931
Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber) live in family groups that defend territories against other conspecifics. Part of this territorial defence involves constructing scent mounds near the stream bank within territories and marking them with castoreum, a urine-based fluid from the castor sacs, and (or) anal-gland secretion. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that Eurasian beavers show one or more forms of territorial behavior when an intruder, simulated in the form of experimental scent mounds (ESMs), has scent-marked inside the territory. We predicted that beavers would show a stronger response to ESMs with castoreum than to those without. Results showed that 85% of all beaver families (N = 20) made one or more behavioral responses to ESMs marked with castoreum from foreign adult males, whereas no ESMs presented without castoreum received a response. We therefore conclude that a main function of territorial marking by beavers is to advertise spatially related dominance status, thereby providing opportunities for intruders to assess the presence of the owner and reducing the cost and risks of agonistic conflict for both the owner and intruders. Additionally, it appears to be the scent emitted from an ESM and not the sight of it to which beavers respond.