Communal latrines act as potentially important communication centers in ocelots Leopardus pardalis
In solitary carnivores, scent marking is an important form of communication among individuals. We examined the extent of potential communication among ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) at communal latrine sites at the population level. We used a combination of camera-trapping and noninvasive genetics to monitor 18 ocelot latrines in an isolated population on Barro Colorado Island in the Republic of Panama. We found that 72% of monitored ocelot latrines were used by multiple individuals of both sexes, with a mean of 3.0 individuals (range 1–9) per year using each latrine. One highly used latrine was visited by 17 different individuals including 11 males and 6 females over the course of 6 years. Based on visits to the same latrine within 10 days of one another, potential for scent communication among individuals was high. Males had the potential to communicate with a mean of 5.9 other individuals (range 2–14), and females had the potential to communicate with a mean of 4.5 other individuals (range 3–12) at latrines. We conclude that communal latrines are important centers of scent communication for Leopardus pardalis.
KeywordsCamera-trapping Communication networks Felidae Noninvasive genetics Scent marking
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