Feeds

Hyenas FACEBOOK each other with their ARSES: FACT

It's like a business card, say po-faced boffins

Security for virtualized datacentres

Whiffy bacteria found in hyenas' anal secretions function as a natural social network, boffins claim.

Researchers from Michigan State University examined the pongy bacteria hyenas leave behind whenever they smear their secretions, or "paste", on a tree, plant or grass stalk.

The excretions contain friendly microbes, which emit smells which serve as "messages" for other hyenas to interpret.

"The sour-smelling signals relay reams of information for other animals to read,” said Kevin Theis, an MSU postdoctoral researcher. “Hyenas can leave a quick, detailed message and go. It’s like a bulletin board of who’s around and how they’re doing.

“Scent posts are bulletin boards, pastes are business cards, and bacteria are the ink, shaped into letters and words that provide information about the paster to the boards’ visitors. Without the ink, there is potentially just a board of blank uninformative cards.”

The researchers studied several groups of male and female spotted or striped hyenas in Kenya.

They then analysed the molecular structure of the vast array of microbes which live in the hyena's bum juice.

The scientists found the diversity of bacteria was far higher than previously estimated, with large differences in the type of bug found in each species' paste.

Different bacteria signal a variety of things, including how keen a hyena is to mate, with varying smells emitted to indicate reproductive states. Each species also appears to have its own smell and therefore a unique bacterial culture within its paste.

The research differed from previous studies because the scientists examined the microbes in the wild, rather than by creating a culture. Boffins also combined odour data from wild animals with the microbial surveys to identify a symbiotic relationship between bug and beast.

“There have been around 15 prior studies pursuing this line of research,” Theis continued. “But they typically relied on culture-based methods, an approach in which many of the similarities and differences in bacterial communities can be lost. If we used those traditional methods, many of the key findings that are driving our research wouldn’t be detected at all.

“Now I just need to get back into the field to test new predictions generated by this study. The next phase of this research will be to manipulate the bacterial communities in hyenas’ scent glands to test if their odors change in predictable ways.”

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.