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Panda preferences influence trees 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. A recent study by San Diego Zoo Global researchers, collaborating with researchers at the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Science, indicates that pandas make clear and specific choices about what trees are used for 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 Ron Swaisgood, Ph.D., co-head of San Diego Zoo Global's Giant Panda Conservation Unit.
"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."

This study, which was recently published in "Animal Behavior," confirms that old-growth forest and other factors like tree type are important for maintaining habitat that will support giant panda conservation.

The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is dedicated to generating, sharing and applying scientific knowledge vital to the conservation of animals, plants and habitats worldwide. The work of the Institute includes onsite research efforts at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (historically referred to as Wild Animal Park), laboratory work at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Conservation Research, and international field programs involving more than 235 researchers working in 35 countries. In addition to the Beckman Center for Conservation Research, the Institute also operates the Anne and Kenneth Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Frozen Zoo® and Native Seed Gene Bank, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaiian Bird Conservation Centers, Cocha Cashu Biological Research Station and the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center.

The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which includes a 900-acre biodiversity reserve, and the San Diego Zoo. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

Christina Simmons | EurekAlert!
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