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The smell of fear warns other voles


Many encounters between predators and prey take place in dense vegetation. Predators lurk and wait for the best moment to attack, but are seldom visible. For a prey animal, the smell of a predator is one of many signals for danger. The studies in Thorbjörn Sievert’s dissertation showed that prey individuals can communicate with each other about the presence of a predator. An individual, who was attacked or chased by a predator, can signal danger with its body odour, i.e. alarm pheromones. The studies showed that alarm pheromone caused different responses in vole behaviour and reproduction compared to the direct predator odour.

Fights for survival regularly take place in the wild: when hares smell a lynx preparing to ambush, they increase their vigilance and flee. When a bank vole detects the characteristic smell of the weasel, they change their behaviour. MORE

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