• Catch a whiff

    Catch a whiff

    The way in which rhino communicate with each other has been compared to how humans interact on social network sites.

    A study conducted at the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province shows how the animals could be using communal dung heaps as a way of ‘reading’ posts of others in their network. A trio of scientists from South Africa and Germany extracted air from around dung piles of free-roaming white rhino, then analysed the scent in a lab. They discovered it signals gender, age and sexual availability.

    According to an Agence France-Presse report, when the team of scientists recreated the signature dung smell of territorial males and of females in heat, and then spread the synthetic odours to mimic fresh ones, it showed that the different smells transmit key information. When the odour mimicked an intruder bull, the males revisited the pile often to keep close tabs on the movement of a potential threat, while also spending a lot more time sniffing the scent of the female displaying sexual readiness.

    24 January 2017
    Image: Gallo/Getty Images