Researchers discovered where exactly white rhinoceros head to for the latest news. People used to gather around some meaningful location (like fireplace or water source) to share the latest updates and news. It turns out that white rhinoceros do the same, though the place of the meetings they choose is rather scented – huge piles of dung.
Scientists figured out that chemicals found in white rhinoceros excrements provide other species with information about the age, sex, general health state and reproductive function of the animal, who left such a “gift”. And all this data is easy to find out once you visit the public outhouse which is nothing else but a dung.
We believe that dung serves as a certain means of communication for the animals. It contains information which we, for example, don’t use at all – shares a leading author of the investigation Courtney Marneweck from University in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Many animals can discover chemical cues in urine or excrements of other species (for example binturong, which smell is very similar to pop corn ) in order to collect certain information about other members of their kind or for example to see if the territory is already occupied. This is exactly the same reason why dogs tend to snuff all the time stakes and other rises, “marked” by other quadruped animals.
But white rhinos have one peculiar feature, making them different from other animals – groups of rhinoceros relieve their nature in one chosen spot. Such line of behavior was discovered in this species for the first time. Marneweck and her colleagues have been studying more than 200 white rhinoceros in South Africa from different populations. During the research they collected couple of samples of their feces after animals visited the piles of dung. Researchers laugh, saying that it is quite easy to find the piles of dungs: huge mammals trample down the grass on the way to the outhouse, and moreover they don’t really walk too far on feeling the call of nature. Besides that, the results of full lunch are quite large and it is really hard not to notice them. (Marneweck also adds that feces of rhinoceros are not stinky at all – animals’ excrements are mostly dried grass ).
But let’s get back to the research. After all the samples were collected by scientists, they analyzed its content. Later on they created fake (exactly fake) excrements from grass and dirt, sprayed with the same elements that were discovered in real excrements of three different species of animals. After, scientists put the fake dung in accidentally chosen outhouse places and were watching alpha male’s reaction to such sort of “present”.
It turned out that dominant species were very sensitive to fake, which was carrying chemical cues belonging to the female animal ready for mating. Also male species spent more time on snuffing the fake excrements comparing to the “real ones”, and tended to visit the outhouse more often. Moreover, according to the scientists, alpha males defecated on top of the fake excrement. Such type of reaction shows that male rhinos collected information with the help of chemical cues contained in the dung, admits Marneweck.
Also zoologists come to conclusion that such an unusual means of communication allows all the members of the group to find out the status or condition of every single member without a need to observe them and causing unsafe confrontations or fights. There is one more interesting fact: piles of dung are often located on the borders of the territory occupied by various populations of one kind, who leave their nature exactly in that place. So, it means that such “code beacons” help to communicate not only within one group of rhinos but besides that they strengthen the borders of the territory.
According to Marneweck, such investigation helps to understand the way white rhinoceros communicate and this fact will work for scientists benefits, who wish to help them to survive (unfortunately this species is threatened with extinction. )
Unusual investigation about creating “fake” excrements of rhinos was published in the scientific magazine Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Extinction: Only ONE Breeding White Rhino Left on Earth.