San Diego Zoo Global researchers, collaborating with Chinese scientists, have discovered that pandas make clear and specific choices about what trees are used for scent marking.
As solitary animals, giant pandas have developed a number of ways to communicate those times when they are ready to come into close contact. One means of this communication occurs through scent marking.
“Variables affecting the selection of scent-marking sites included bark roughnesss, presence of moss on the tree trunk, tree diameter and distance to the trail,” said Dr Ron Swaisgood, co-head of San Diego Zoo Global’s Giant Panda Conservation Unit and co-author of a paper published in the journal Animal Behavior.
“These choices have clear effects on the scent signal, making it last longer, be detected from further away, or otherwise enhance its communication efficiency. We are not surprised that pandas are efficient with their use of chemo-signals, as mounting evidence suggests that many aspects of giant panda life history are constrained by their energetically poor diet.”
The study confirms that old-growth forest and other factors like tree type are important for maintaining habitat that will support giant panda conservation.
Bibliographic information: Yonggang Nie et al. 2012. Giant panda scent-marking strategies in the wild: role of season, sex and marking surface. Animal Behavior, vol. 84, no. 1, pages 39–44; doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.03.026